After heavy rains and the threat of lightning forcing a 24-hour delay, NagaWorld eventually edged past 2014 winners Balestier Khalsa 4-3 in rescheduled fixture at the Toa Payoh Stadium in Singapore late on Thursday night to make the quarterfinals of the RHB Singapore Cup.
Special invitees to the 2017 edition, NagaWorld joined Boeung Ket Angkor in the round of eight. Boeung Ket proved too good for Warriors FC in their preliminary round last Monday.
In keeping with their recent goal scoring trends in the domestic league, Naga’s goal tally was drawn from George Kelechi’s brace and Atuheire Kipson’s opening goal, with Sos Sohana chipping in with the fourth to help the Casino-backed side hold out against the local S.League side.
A brace from Hazzuwan Halim proved wholly inadequate for the Tigers, who briefly sensed a chance of a comeback when Raihan Rahman converted a penalty to sneak closer only to find the visitors’ grimly latch on to their advantage.
After Soung Virak came close twice in the first five minutes, NagaWorld finally grabbed the lead through Kipson, and nine minutes later a Kelechi header doubled the lead for coach Meas Channa’s side.
After Hazzuwan reduced the lead within minutes, exploiting keeper Samreth Seiha’s clumsy collection, Naga’s Kento Fujihara, the former Albirex Niigata Singapore defender, averted further damage, clearing a Rahman free-kick attempt off the line.
Naga celebrated this reprieve with a Sos Suhana goal to stretch the lead, only to see a penalty given for a handling offence inside the box.
Rahman’s cool-headed conversion kept Balestier’s hopes alive, but Kelechi quickly dashed them by completing his double.
Hazzuwan kept the fight going with a 67th munute strike but resolute defending by Naga killed off any possible Balestier fightback.
“It was a tough game for me because the goals came very quickly. After we scored, Balestier also scored and it was very dangerous in the final 10 minutes,’’ said Naga coach Channa during his post match analysis.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic came away disappointed with the result but not with the effort of his players.