Balestier sent crashing out after heavy AFC Cup defeat

Balestier Khalsa’s hopes of advancing past the AFC Cup group stages for the first time were squashed after a one-sided 4-0 defeat to Kitchee SC on the road on Tuesday night. 

The Tigers came into the game with destiny in their own hands; a win over the Hong Kong side would lift them over Kitchee and into the qualification spots.

It was the Singapore side which came away with a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory when the sides met at Jalan Besar Stadium in March.

Balestier came into the game with the hopes of doing something similar at Mong Kok Stadium, but by the end of the 90 minutes, they were battered and outclassed by their opponents.

Right from the start Kitchee dominated proceedings, with playmaker Lam Ka Wai at the heart of every move.

While coach Marko Kraljevic initially held down the fort superbly, his charges eventually could not cope with the movement of Kitchee’s attacking triumvirate of Lam, Jordi Tarres and Rufino Del Burgo.

In the 17th minute, a delightful chipped pass from Lam found Del Burgo unmarked, but the Spaniard volleyed wide.

Eleven minutes later, Del Burgo glided past Hanafi Salleh easily down the left before picking out an unmarked Jordi Tarres, only for the latter to sidefoot wide.

Both Del Burgo and Christian Annan were guilty of missing decent opportunities after good work from Lam, while Zaiful Nizam was on hand to produce a solid stop to deny the former in the 33rd minute.

But there was to be no denying Tarres in the 38th minute after Del Burgo’s cross was allowed to find its way into the six-yard box, where the forward was on hand to guide the ball past Zaiful from point-blank range.

Kraljevic's troops held out for most of the first half, but were eventually outclassed

Five minutes after the restart, Kitchee doubled their lead. Captain Lo Kwan Yee beat his marker down the right before drilling in a low ball across the goal area and all Del Burgo needed to do was to tap the ball in.

A minute later, Del Burgo turned provider for Annan, but the winger spurned the chance.

Del Burgo then got his side’s third with a brilliant individual effort on the hour mark. Receiving the ball from Tong Kin Man, the forward evaded Shah Hirul’s challenge smartly before poking it through Sheikh Hadi’s legs to make it 3-0.

Cheng Chin Lung wrapped up the win after he was introduced into the game just five minutes earlier in place of Annan.

A great ball from Lam sent Cheng through on goal and the substitute lifted the ball over the onrushing Zaiful into the empty net.

The result means Kitchee SC top Group F, while Balestier Khalsa end their AFC Cup campaign in third place. Philippines’ Kaya FC finished as runners-up in the group following their 0-0 draw with New Radiant. 

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