Super Basit Stuns Tigers With Early Brace
Created on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 16:50
A pre-match thunderstorm that descended upon Toa Payoh Stadium on Tuesday evening turned out to be something of an omen of things to come for hosts Balestier Khalsa, as they leaked in three goals without reply in the game against Hougang United that followed.
(Photography by Andrew Lim)
Praised for their excellent defence this season, the boys from Balestier were caught off-guard by a storm that came carrying the name of Basit Abdul Hamid, who scored a double within the first 16 minutes of the match, the first of which came within 21 seconds of the get-go.
Any hopes of getting at least a share of the spoils were effectively extinguished by the hour mark, as Ante Barac unleashed a left-footed free kick that curled beyond the reach of Tigers custodian Joey Sim and into the top corner.
It was only the fourth time this season that the stout Balestier defence had conceded three goals in a game, but they are now left with a negative goal difference and stand only four points ahead of eighth-placed Hougang.
The Tigers were certainly very generous hosts on a wet Toa Payoh surface, as they offered up chance after chance with their surprisingly shambolic defending in the first half.
Basit was the happiest of recipients, taking up the offer with hardly half a minute played.
Unmarked and mere yards away from the line, the 25-year-old made no mistake with his first chance as he hammered a loose ball into the roof of the net.
It was, remarkably, only his first goal in all competitions this season, yet it proved a sign of things to come for Balestier for the remainder of the evening.
In fact, the game could have been over within the seventh minute had Jordan Webb been more clinical in front of goal.
A sliced clearance by Syed Thaha, coupled with another display of calamitous defending in the centre, allowed Webb to go one-on-one with Sim, but the Hougang forward, probably stunned by this piece of good fortune, could only blaze the ball over.
The visitors’ game plan of hitting Balestier fast and hard seemed to be working, as the Tigers defence seemed to be struggling to keep up with the pace.
It got so bad, their usual strength at dead-ball situations also failed to show, and Basit was on hand to capitalise once more with 16 minutes gone.
Beating Sim to Azhar Sarudin’s free kick, the well-built forward headed the ball into the net to hammer another nail in the hosts’ coffin.
The early two-goal lead was just reward for head coach Nenad Bacina and his charges, as they had put in a hard week of training to find ways to breach the Balestier defence.
“Our plan was to purposefully put the ball in Balestier’s backline,” remarked the Croat.
“We know how they will play, and we wanted to put the ball forward and try to win the second ball, and it was how Basit scored the first goal.”
Whilst the Cheetahs had a plan and showed great desire to win, their hosts seemed lost in their own backyard as they trudged down the tunnel at half-time, having failed to give Fadhil Salim any real work to do.
Coming back out early and with renewed vigour, they appeared eager to atone for their shambolic first-half display as they fashioned two decent opportunities within ten minutes.
Forward Zdravko Dragicevic failed to capitalise on both, however, as he contrived to give Tigers fans in the stands reason to bemoan a toothless display.
Seemingly possessing two left feet, Dragicevic failed to make any connection with the ball as he soiled the bottom of his shorts on 50 minutes, falling butt first in front of an open goal instead of connecting with Paul Cunningham’s scuffed attempt.
He had an opportunity to make up for his comical fall five minutes later, as a similar scramble in the penalty box saw him on the receiving end of a cutback from Goran Subara.
Yet his second attempt was no better than his first, as he failed to control the ball.
Barac ended any hopes of a Balestier comeback as his deftly-executed free kick on 59 minutes put Hougang firmly in the driving seat for the remainder of the game.
Comfortable and confident of the three points, the Cheetahs seemed to be happy to slow the game down from then onwards, and true to form, the Tigers gave them no further trouble right to the end.
Bacina was clearly delighted at the final whistle, as was Basit, who was without doubt the star of the evening.
“We came with a winning mentality, and we have been training hard over the past week; this is a good reward for our training,” said the forward.
The ever-humble man, who has found it hard to pin down a starting place this term, was quick to deflect songs of praise that came his way following this standout display.
“This victory is a collective effort, and I thought it was Barac and his goal that killed off the game,” he said as he prepared to board the team bus heading back to Hougang.
It was certainly not all smiles in the Balestier camp, as their slim chances of landing a first S.League title grew even slimmer with this resounding loss.
Despite the defeat, however, head coach Darren Stewart showed few signs of disappointment at the final whistle, preferring to take the long-term view as he spoke proudly of the efforts his players have put in throughout the season to date.
“We have had many great results at home, and this is, I think, our first loss at home in a long while,” remarked the Australian.
“Coming into this game, we had many players carrying injuries, and sometimes results don’t go your way. But I feel the players have gotten the club some good publicity through their efforts this season.”