Pericic goal keeps Balestier in title hunt
Pericic strikes for second straight game to keep title hopes alive
BALESTIER KHALSA 1
(Robert Pericic 77)
COURTS YOUNG LIONS 0
Lightning does strike twice, as Balestier Khalsa will testify, after their Great Eastern Yeo's S.League clash with the Courts Young Lions at the Toa Payoh Stadium last night.
Once again, they were not at their best and found themselves under pressure on numerous occasions throughout the 90 minutes.
But, once again, Robert Pericic came to their rescue as the clock ticked down - his clinical strike in the 77th minute handing the home side victory over the Young Lions, as the Tigers kept up hopes of lifting the league title for the first time.
In many ways, the match mirrored their 1-0 triumph over Albirex Niigata last Friday, especially the way they doggedly held out before a smash-and-grab towards the end to pocket all three points.
After his team moved level with leaders Brunei DPMM - albeit having played two games more - Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic was hardly complaining.
"Of course, I'm very happy," said the German-born Croat, after the game.
"We didn't play well, yet we managed to win… this is a sign of a good team. If you win the title, no one will ask how you won it."
While their meeting with Albirex was expected to be tough, few would have predicted that Balestier would struggle at home, even though the Young Lions have improved under German coach Juergen Raab.
The title-chasers looked tired after their exertions last week, as the visitors enjoyed the better of the proceedings in the first half.
They did show more life after the break and Pericic should have done better in the 48th minute, when he failed to beat Syazwan Buhari one-on-one, and Ignatius Ang's resultant corner cannoned straight off the bar.
Zulkiffli Hassim, who put in a tireless shift down both flanks, began to look dangerous and, not surprisingly, it was his good work that led to the winner.
Showing great determination, the winger pounced on a slack pass and charged towards goal before playing the ball to Miroslav Kristic.
And, like he did against Albirex, the Serb cleverly fed a neat pass to strike-partner Pericic, who was completely unmarked inside the box and made no mistake in finding the top corner.
Despite his heroics for the second consecutive match, Pericic was keen to share the credit with the rest of the team.
The Croat said: "We really play as one all the way from our goalkeeper Zaiful (Nizam) to Miro (Kristic) and me.
"There is really a special character in this team and we play with so much heart.
"Now, I hope and dream that we can go all the way and decide it (the title) in Brunei (Balestier play DPMM on the last day of the season)."
- BALESTIER KHALSA: Zaiful Nizam, Hanafi Salleh, Emir Lotinac, Igor Cerina, Jonathan Xu, Zulkiffli Hassim, Ridwan Jamil (Poh Yi Feng 44, Danial Farhan Tan 73), Tarik Cmajcanin, Ignatius Ang (Fadhil Noh 57), Miroslav Kristic, Robert Pericic
- COURTS YOUNG LIONS: Syazwan Buhari, Afiq Noor (Nur Na'iim Ishak 80), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Amirul Adli, Farhan Rahmat, Ammirul Emmran, M Anumanthan, Shahfiq Ghani (Suria Prakash 70), Jordan Webb, Sherif El-Masri, Taufik Suparno (Irfan Fandi 76)
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Zulkiffli Hassim (Balestier)
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now