S.League: Balestier back to winning ways after easing past Harimau Muda
Miroslav Kristic struck his 14th goal of the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League season on Sunday night to help Balestier Khalsa to a 2-0 victory over Harimau Muda in Malacca.
The Toa Payoh-based side were looking to end a three-match win-less streak at the Hang Jebat Stadium, having drawn their last two games -- including a goalless stalemate against the same opponents just five days earlier back on home soil.
That draw dented their fading title hopes, but coach Marko Kraljevic will be pleased that they are back on track for a top-three finish, by dispatching the Young Tigers to move to second in the standings.
Kristic's goal added to Robert Pericic's opener, which arrived after just five minutes on the clock when he produced a poacher's finish to get the visitors off to a flyer.
The hosts tried to hit back through efforts from Nazirul Naim Hashim and Faris Shah Rosli, but both sent their attempts wide to leave Zaiful Nizam untroubled in the Balestier goal.
It would be the former who had another opportunity to test Zaiful on 20 minutes, but the Harimau Muda skipper fired straight at the Singapore custodian after finding space in the penalty area to get his shot away.
Zulkiffli Hassim then had a glorious chance to deal his opponents a second blow in the 43rd minute, but he fluffed his lines after being played in by a superb pass from Tarik Cmajcanin.
The rejuvenated Malaysians came out of the tunnel looking for parity in the second half and Adam Nor Azlin went close with a free-kick that flew inches past the post in the 51st minute.
Just 60 seconds later, Akhir Bahari forced Zaiful into a superb stop to deny the scores from being levelled.
But in their eagerness to search for an equaliser, Harimau Muda switched off at the back and were duly punished when they conceded a second on 53 minutes.
The lively Ignatius Ang produced a low cross to set the ball up on a platter for Kristic, who duly converted to go level with Fazrul Nawaz and Rafael Ramazotti as joint-leading league scorers.
The dismissal of Kenny Pallraj for a second yellow in the 74th minute extinguished any hopes that Harimau Muda had of a comeback, as they slumped to their eighth defeat in 12 games - of which they have won only two.
As for Balestier, the result saw them climb up to second in the table, five points behind leaders Brunei DPMM and one ahead of third-placed Warriors FC, both of whom have a game in hand.
Harimau Muda: Farhan Abu Bakar, Kenny Pallraj, Wan Ahmad Amirzafran, Annas Rahmat, Nazirul Naim Hashim (C), Akhir Bahari, Irfan Zakaria (Amirul Hisyam 83'), Faris Shah Rosli, Syahrul Azwari (Kumaahran Sathasivam 46'), Adam Nor Azlin, Ridzuan Abdunloh Pula (Asri Mardzuki 69')
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (C), Hanafi Salleh, Emir Lotinac, Igor Cerina, Nurullah Hussein (Yusiskandar Yusop 79'), Zulkiffli Hassim, Ridwan Jamil (Poh Yi Feng 66'), Tarik Cmajcanin (Jonathan Xu 83'), Ignatius Ang, Robert Pericic, Miroslav Kristic