Kaya FC vs Balestier Khalsa: Will the tired Tigers pounce again?
Battle between two relatively new kids on the continental stage.
After identical 1-0 wins over their respective opponents in the last matchday a week ago, confidence should not be an issue as the Balestier Khalsa and Kaya FC lock horns at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in this Group F clash on Tuesday night.
Kaya FC Form
- Kaya FC 1-0 New Radiant SC (AFC Cup)
- Forza FC 0-6 Kaya FC (UFL Cup)
- Kitchee SC 1-0 Kaya FC (AFC Cup)
- Kaya FC 6-1 Laos (UFL Cup)
- Kaya 0-1 Stallion (UFL Cup)
Balestier Khalsa Form
- Balestier 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Balestier 1-0 Kitchee SC (AFC Cup)
- Geylang International 0-0 Balestier (S.League)
- Balestier 1-1 Albirex (S.League)
- New Radiant SC 2-2 Balestier (AFC Cup)
A stoppage-time winner from promising talent OJ Porteria meant they edged Maldives’ New Radiant in front of a sizable home crowd.
This is actually the club’s maiden AFC Cup voyage, having entered the competition by winning the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Cup.
They are currently in contention to retain the trophy this year, with a quarter-final fixture against Loyola Meralco Sparks in early April to look forward to.
On the other hand, Singapore representative Balestier astounded almost everyone by upsetting Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
A first-half goal from winger Zulkiffli Hassim and some brilliant rearguard action helped the Tigers to achieve their second-ever victory on the continental stage – following up on the 2-1 success against India’s East Bengal in their maiden campaign in 2015.
The Tigers are now top of Group F with four points from two matches.
Peculiarly, that is the club’s only win this season, having drawn three times and lost once in the S.League where they are currently third from bottom.
This will also be their fourth game in 13 days, so jadedness may well be a factor.
It will be interesting to see if they can keep up this decent run in the AFC Cup.
Kaya are unlikely to make much changes to the starting eleven that lined up against New Radiant.
So, expect former Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Matthew Acton to start again, with former Azkals captain and long-time club skipper Alexander “Aly” Borromeo and Japanese veteran Masanari Omura reprising their partnership at the heart of defence.
Alfred Osei and Miguel Tanton will provide the grit from central midfield, while speedy attackers like Porteria, Jovin Bedic and Kenshiro Daniels are expected to be retained in the lineup.
It remains to be seen if British forward Louis Max Clark can recover from his quadriceps injury in time to make this game, but Senegalese attacker Robert Lopez Mendy is definitely out after failing to get his paperwork cleared in time.
As for Balestier, it is a similar case – Ho Wai Loon and Robert Pericic are still on the treatment table and should still miss out.
It remains to be seen whether Serbian defender Emir Lotinac has recovered from the injury he sustained against Kitchee, but Croatian hotshot Miroslav Kristic might be able to shake off the knock which he got in the 1-1 draw against Warriors FC last Friday.
Key Battle: OJ Porteria vs Sheikh Abdul Hadi
After a bright start to his Balestier career where he has played every minute of their six matches in all competitions so far, Hadi will face another tough test of his credentials when he come up against Kaya attacker Porteria.
A product of the DC United Academy, the America-born 21-year-old will run riot with his pace and dribbling ability if left unattended.
Former Philippines international Joel Villarino is taking charge of Kaya for the AFC Cup campaign, as regular coach Chris Greatwich does not possess the ‘A’ license required for this tournament.
In the opposite dugout is Marko Kraljevic, who has done wonders since being appointed Balestier coach in 2014. Despite having to work within a tight budget, the German-Croat has gotten the Tigers punching above their weight for the past few seasons.
Facts and Figures
- Kaya has scored 21 goals in just five matches in the UFL Cup group stage this season.
- Balestier has conceded more than one goal only once this season – the 2-2 draw away against New Radiant in their opening Group F game.
A 1-1 draw. It won’t be easy going to Philippines to get a result, but the Tigers should be resolute enough to hold out for a point.