Balestier Khalsa thrash Brunei DPMM 'best game of S.League season'
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic lauded his side's "best game of the season" after defeating Brunei DPMM 4-1 away at Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium on Monday night.
Goals from Fadli Kamis, Hazzuwan Halim (two) and Tajeli Salamat sealed an emphatic victory for the Tigers, ending DPMM's two-game winning streak, despite Shahrazen Said's late consolation goal.
After a tough season which yielded two victories in their first 19 games, Balestier are seemingly finishing the year strongly with two wins in two.
Kraljevic's side had defeated bottom side Garena Young Lions 1-0 before the international break.
"We defended well until the last minute and conceded a goal. But we managed to score four goals and I think this is our best performance this season," said the German-Croat, who is into his fourth year in charge of the Toa Payoh-based outfit.
"The key point of the game was when [goalkeeper] Zaiful [Nizam] made a few saves and turned the game in our favour. But I will give credit to all our boys as they worked very hard and this is the best game of the season."
Meanwhile, DPMM's disappointing season continued, as they remained stuck in the bottom two. They are now five points adrift of Balestier, albeit with a game in hand.
Widely viewed as title contenders in pre-season, they have fallen well short of expectations in 2017.
Coach Steve Kean did not mince his words when asked about his side's latest display.
"I thought we were poor tonight. We were nowhere near the level we were against Young Lions or Hougang [United], which we won away from home [in their last two matches]," said the former Blackburn Rovers tactician.
"In the balance of play, when we did have possession, the crossing was not of high quality."
The Wasps had started off well, and could have opened the scoring on 13 minutes. But Brazilian front man Rafael Ramazotti's header from Helmi Zambin's cross was kept out by Zaiful.
Balestier gradually settled in and broke the deadlock on 21 minutes.
Huzaifah Aziz's corner was left unchecked, before Fadli managed to tap home from close range.
DPMM had a couple of opportunities to level it before half=time, but Adi Said was twice denied by the on-form Zaiful.
The visitors returned for the second half with much vigour, and doubled their lead on 48 minutes.
Hazzuwan superbly connected with Tajeli's deep cross to nod past DPMM custodian Awangku Mu'izzuddin.
At the other end, Zaiful continued to keep Kean's side at bay with saves from Hendra Azam and Abdul Mu'iz Sisa.
That paved the way for Balestier to put the result beyond doubt in the 72nd minute.
Hazzuwan dusted himself off after being fell by Helmi to convert from 12 yards out for his second of the night.
Kraljevic's charges added a fourth on 88 minutes, with Tajeli's speculative 30-yard drive spilled over the line by Mu'izzuddin.
DPMM then scored deep into added time, with Shahrazen tapping home from close range, but that proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
Brunei DPMM: Awangku Mu'izzuddin (GK), Haizul Rani (Shahrazen Said 65'), Rosmin Kamis (C), Abdul Mu'iz Sisa, Hazwan Hamzah, Helmi Zambin, Hendra Azam, Nurikhwan Othman (Azwan Saleh 59'), Rafael Ramazotti, Adi Said, Daud Gazale (Najib Tarif 59')
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Tajeli Salamat, Shah Hirul, Huzaifah Aziz, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit, Hazzuwan Halim (Fariz Faizal 88'), Aung Kyaw Naing (Azmeerudin Jamludain 90')
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT