Balestier Khalsa vs Home United: Clubs out to salvage season in Singapore Cup
Balestier Khalsa Form
- Balestier 1-4 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
- Balestier 2-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
- Home United 1-3 Balestier (S.League)
- Balestier 2-2 Hougang United (S.League)
- Warriors FC 1-1 Balestier (S.League)
The battle between outfits who want to save their season.
We are past the halfway mark of the season and it is safe to say that the rails have come off a little for the two afore-mentioned sides.
It was thought that Balestier Khalsa were on an upward trend after going three matches unbeaten, but they were brought back down to earth by Tampines Rovers and Brunei DPMM in consecutive matches at Jalan Besar.
The Tigers were a shambles defensively against the defending champions, simply allowing too much space for Paulo Sergio and Rafael Ramazotti to wreak havoc as they fell to a heavy 4-1 defeat.
That made it 24 goals conceded in their last eight matches, a far cry from their solid defensive displays at the start of the season. They have yet to keep a clean sheet since the 3-0 AFC Cup thrashing of New Radiant in late April.
Languishing second-from-bottom in the league and seven points adrift of seventh-placed Warriors FC, the Singapore Cup comes as a welcome distraction for the Tigers.
Home United, meanwhile, looked like they were getting into the grove with some swashbuckling football to go with five successive wins in all competitions. But all of the sudden, the Protectors find themselves in a rut.
A 2-2 draw against bottom-dwellers Garena Young Lions was followed up by three successive defeats – the latest one being a disappointing 2-1 reverse against Geylang International at their own backyard.
Having gone ahead just after the break through Shahrin Saberin, they contrived to throw away the three points by conceding two goals in the dying minutes through some poor defending against simple long balls launched into their area.
12 points adrift of leaders Albirex Niigata (S) with just eight games to go, it looks increasingly unlikely that the Protectors can win their first championship since 2003. Thus their best hopes of winning a trophy this year lie in the domestic cups.
Home United Form
- Home 1-2 Geylang International (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 5-2 Home (S.League)
- Home 1-3 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 2-2 Home (S.League)
- Home 2-1 Hougang United (S.League)
Both sides will have to contend with playing without their best players.
For Balestier, key midfielder Fazli Ayob is suspended for both legs of the quarter-finals, due to the early red card which he attained while playing for former club Home in last year’s Cup final.
Winger Hazzuwan Halim continues to miss out as he continues his rehabilitation from collar bone surgery, while left back Ho Wai Loon is not likely to be available due to reservist.
Defensive midfielder Shah Hirul, as well as the Croatian strike duo of Niko Tokic and Miroslav Kristic, are also doubts for this tie.
For Home, captain Jum’at Jantan, defenders Sirina Camara, Ang Zhi Wei, R Aaravin and key winger Faris Ramli are out through injury.
Defensive midfielder Aqhari Abdullah only recently returned to training after an ankle lay-off, thus is not expected to feature.
South Korean playmaker Song Uiyoung is also doubtful after coming off early against Geylang.
Key Battle: Sheikh Abdul Hadi vs Ken Ilso
With Balestier looking shaky in defence lately, Ilso will surely relish the opportunity to get another couple of goals to his name.
The 29-year-old Danish forward have been largely on-song this term, scoring 12 goals in all competitions so far – just one goal short of his tally in 2015. Being entrusted with the armband since Juma’at’s injury shows how much he is valued in this Protectors side.
The responsibilities to stop this in-form man should be Hadi, who have been an ever-present at the back for Balestier – featuring in all 22 games across two competitions so far since joining from the Young Lions.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic admitted to being worried about his side’s defensive frailties after the DPMM game, thus we can expect him to push Emir Lotinac back in defence to partner Hadi as they look to shut out Ilso and company.
Last Five Meetings
- Home 1-3 Balestier (S.League, Jun ’16)
- Balestier 0-1 Home (S.League, Apr ’16)
- Home 2-0 Balestier (S.League, Oct ’15)
- Balestier 1-1 Home (S.League, Aug ’15)
- Home 3-1 Balestier (S.League, Apr’ 15)
Meanwhile, Home counterpart Philippe Aw may not go with his usual gung-ho approach, having previously expressed concerns about the Toa Payoh pitch being too hard and bumpy to play their usual passing game.
Facts and Figures
- Home has the clear upper hand based on previous match-ups. In 41 meetings, they have won 23 times while Balestier won just 11. The other seven games ended in draws.
- In the earlier league encounter at Toa Payoh this season, Home prevailed 1-0 courtesy of Ilso’s first-half penalty.
- Both clubs’ previous meeting in the Singapore Cup was in the 2014 final, where Balestier triumphed 3-1 to win the trophy for the first time in their history.
A tough one to call, but Home may just do enough to take a lead back to Bishan. The Protectors to edge this 2-1.