Singapore Cup Final: Balestier Khalsa 3-1 Home United
Goals by Goran Ljubojevic and Kim Minho saw the Tigers race into a 2-0 lead inside the first 30 minutes before Park Kang-Jin put the result to bed on the stroke of full time.
Sirina Camara slotted home a late penalty but was unable to prevent his side from falling to defeat in a Cup final played in front of 6,157 spectators at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
While torrential rain delayed the start of the game by half an hour, it did not take long for the action to heat up.
Indra Sahdan, a surprise starter over Fazrul Nawaz, was sent racing through on goal by a neat Izzdin Shafiq pass after just two minutes.
However Balestier centre-back Nurullah Hussein got back in time to produce the perfect sliding challenge on the veteran.
It was Balestier however, who settled down better on the waterlogged pitch as they opened the scoring on 14 minutes after a couple of wild attempts.
Ljubojevic superbly took down Kim’s left-wing cross inside the ‘D’ before dispatching home a superb half-volley on his left foot past a hapless Shahril Jantan to draw first blood to the Tigers.
It was the hotshot’s 28th goal in all competitions this season as he strengthened his credentials for the S.League Player of the Year award.
Home had a superb opportunity to strike back after just two minutes when captain Noh Rahman’s speculative effort from 30 yards came off the bar, but Indra somehow fluffed the rebound from six yards out.
The 35-year-old and the Protectors would live to rue that miss as they found themselves two goals down just before the half-hour mark.
Right-back Masrezwan Masturi brought down Kim inside the box and the latter dusted himself off to dispatch the resulting penalty coolly past Shahril.
The Tigers were then forced into a change thereafter with young Ho Wai Loon replacing Syed Thaha, as the latter limped off with an injury.
Sensing their chance, six-time winners Home got their act together and piled the pressure on the Balestier goal thereafter.
Balestier keeper Zaiful Nizam had to produce saves from Bruno Castanheira and Indra, before Noh Rahman’s volley escaped the left-hand post by inches.
There was one last chance left in the half when Noh’s cutback found its way to Indra, but the latter’s effort was agonisingly blocked by Ho on the line.
The two-goal deficit remained till half time as Lee Lim-Saeng opted to haul off Izzdin for Kwon Da-kyung, pushing Sirina Camara into midfield as a result.
Meanwhile club top scorer Fazrul Nawaz came on for Indra soon thereafter, but the Protectors continued to struggle to find inroads through the solid Balestier defence.
Castanheira’s close-range shot was somehow plucked out by Zaiful from point-blank range while Song In-young failed to make a decent connection on Lee Kwan-Woo’s freekick.
With a handy two-goal lead, the Tigers were contented to sit back and break on the counter – which they nearly did on two occasions.
Ljubojevic was sent through on goal by Park Kang-Jin’s incisive through ball but Shahril did well to cover angles, while Kim’s shot came off the post after some brilliant build-up play.
As referee Muhd Taqi’s watch started winding down, Home’s night soon went from bad to worse.
Firstly Noh Rahman was dismissed for a second bookable offence, before Park coolly curled home after Ljubojevic had taken Masrezwan and Shahril out of the equation.
Home did eventually found their breakthrough deep into injury time as Camara slotted home his penalty after being brought down by substitute Zulkiffli Hassim.
However, it was not enough to prevent the Tigers from laying their hands on the prestigious trophy for the first time in their history.