【Match Report】A Tale of Two Penalties

Albirex progressed to the semi finals of the Singapore Cup tonight by beating a defiant Balestier Khalsa 1 nil tonight through a Kodai Tanaka's penalty.

Balestier has improved steadily under new head coach Peter de Roo and achieved some remarkable results recently such as beating Lion City Sailors 5-3 in the league and drawing 3-3 in the recent Singapore Cup game.

Balestier had the better chances in the first 30 minutes with ex White Swan Kuraba Kondo hitting the upright from a free kick. The first half ended scoreless.

The White Swans came out of the blocks faster in the second half probably after some tough team talk by Head Coach Yoshinaga.

Tanaka's header hit Balestier defender Darren Teh's hand in the 69th minute and the referee pointed to the spot immediately. Balestier players protested to the referee vehemently for a good 2 minutes before Tanaka finally stepped up to drill in the penalty.

10 minutes later, winger Masahiro Sugita was tripped in the penalty box by substitute Ameer Hakim. It was Ameer's first action after coming on, and this time, there was no protest from the Balestier players for this stone-walled penalty.

Sugita got up and took the penalty duty from regular taker, Tanaka. Although the Balestier goalkeeper dived the wrong year, Sugita inexplicably sent the ball wide of the post. If the ball has gone into the net, it might have killed off Balestier's resistance.

In his post-match interview, Yoshinaga admitted it was a mistake for Sugita to take the penalty and vowed to stick to the appointed takers for future games.

The missed penalty gave Balestier the impetus to attack. Goalkeeper Koga had to be alert in the 84th minute as he thwarted ex-White Swan Ryoya Taniguchi in his track after he was through on goal.

However, centre back and captain Jun Kobayashi was not so lucky. He was given a second yellow card after he was adjudged to have fouled Kondo unfairly at the 94th minute. Kobayashi will miss the next game against Lion City Sailors. For the record, Taniguchi sent the resulting free kick over the crossbar, which was subsequently, the last piece of action of the game.

The victory meant Albirex topped Group A with 6 points. Second-placed Lion City Sailors has 2 points after a surprising 1-1 draw with Young Lions tonight. Young Lions and Balestier has 1 point each. With the last group game against Sailors this Saturday, Albirex has secured first place in Group A with an unassailable lead.

The permutations mean that the winner of the Young Lions and Balestier match on the same day would be hoping the White Swans do them a favour by denying Lion City Sailors a victory. This is because the winner of the match would have 4 points while the Sailors, barring a victory, would have 3 points or less.

With all to play for, all eyes would be on this intriguing match between Lion City Sailors and Albirex. Kick off is 5.30pm.

[Click Here for Match Details]

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