Balestier Khalsa wrapped up their best season ever with a 1-0 win over Global FC of the Philippines to take third place in the 2013 RHB Singapore Cup at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.
The Tigers had to survive some tense moments near the end after goal-scorer Qiu Li was sent off for receiving a second caution in the 82nd minute to add to his first in the 52nd.
But the forward’s winning goal in the 53rd minute proved enough to separate the two sides, after some good build-up by Park Kang Jin and Zulkiffli Hassim down the left.
Zulkiffli squared the ball for Qiu, who was able to smash the ball just inside the right-hand upright, beating Global keeper Roland Sadia as he dived to his left in vain.
There had been chances for the visiting side as well, but a poor first touch when in sight of goal by Global captain Ben Starosta and wayward finishing from the industrious Jeffrey Christiaens prevented them from breaking the deadlock.
The Philippines side defended solidly for the most part and did what they could to penetrate a notoriously stubborn Balestier backline.
But the Tigers were on the offensive from the off and had Global looking to their exuberant goalkeeper to keep them in the game.
In the ninth minute, Kim Min Ho saw his shot stopped on the line by the agile Sadia, but when the ball bobbed up in front of the lurking Obadin Aikhena, another defender blocked the second attempt on goal and the ball was hastily bundled away for a corner.
In the 22nd minute, Global had their first real chance when Christiaens’s free-kick was cleared to Starosta, whose close-range effort bounced back off the right-hand upright as Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam looked on gratefully.
Zulkiffli and Qiu both kept the Global goalkeeper busy for much of the remainder of the first half, shots from the eventual winning goal-scorer being dealt with skilfully by Sadia as he climbed high to effect good saves each time.
After Qiu had scored in the 53rd minute, Global tried hard to make up on lost ground with Christiaens causing the most problems, but a well-drilled Balestier defence held firm.
Some drama came in the 82nd minute when Qiu was given a second caution after an apparently off-the-ball altercation with a Global player, while Global’s 17-year-old starlet Amani Aguinado was also dismissed three minutes later after being cautioned twice in the game.
However, that was all the drama that ensued as Balestier did enough to earn the third prize in the Singapore Cup to go with their StarHub League Cup win and a creditable fourth place in the Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League.