Garena Young Lions were edged 1-0 by Balestier Khalsa FC at Jalan Besar Stadium in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League on Wednesday night.
Huzaifah Aziz’s second-half strike was enough for the Tigers as they pulled eight points clear of eighth-placed Brunei DPMM in the standings.
The visitors could have gotten off to a dream start after eight minutes when a penalty was awarded after Sheikh Abdul Hadi was adjudged to have been brought down in the box, but Raihan Rahman’s spot-kick came off the foot of the post before being cleared to safety.
Balestier continued to threaten and Zulkhair Mustaffa came close with a snapshot which Young Lions custodian Hairul Syirhan dealt with comfortably in the 14th minute.
Young Lions then had their first sighting of goal just before the half-hour mark, but Taufik Suparno headed straight at Zaiful Nizam from inside the box.
Zaiful was tested again on 39 minutes, going down low to save Muhelmy Suhaimi’s shot from distance before Zulkhair volleyed over off Hazzuwan Halim’s cross at the other end three minutes later.
The developmental side should have taken the lead in the 59th minute but Muhaimin Suhaimi delayed his shot and allowed Ashrul Syafeeq to recover and put in a last-ditch tackle.
That miss would prove costly as Balestier broke the deadlock on 66 minutes after Young Lions failed to clear their lines from a Tajeli Salamat cross.
Huzaifah then rifled home a first-time shot from outside the box which flew past Hairul for the lead.
Buoyed by the opener, the Tigers could have gone further ahead but Hazzuwan was denied by Hairul in the 69th minute before Fadli Kamis saw his header cleared off the line by Illyas Lee just a minute later.
Young Lions head coach Vincent Subramaniam sensed blood and reacted by bringing on Zulqarnaen Suzliman for Ammirul Emmran in the 73rd minute.
As things turned out, it was the hosts who finished the game strongly.
Rusyaidi Salime delivered a low cross for Ikhsan Fandi in the 74th minute but the forward failed to keep his shot down, before Ryan Syaffiq fired straight at Zaiful four minutes later.
Ikhsan then nearly rescued a point for Young Lions eight minutes from time when he bulldozed his way into the box, but the 18-year-old was thwarted again by Zaiful.
Try as they might, the Young Lions failed to muster a reply as they fell to a defeat.
With the result, Balestier remain in seventh with 13 points from 20 games while Young Lions are ninth with three points from 17 matches.
Garena Young Lions Head Coach Vincent Subramaniam was disappointed by the performance of his charges: “We didn’t even create enough chances like against Hougang (in our last game) to say that we could have scored.
“We had difficulty controlling the ball and played too many aerial balls to get the ball away from the danger zone. The goal was an opportunistic one, the player (Huzaifah) took a left-footed shot and it went in, there was nothing my goalkeeper could do.
“But we are not giving up for sure, the boys still want to prove something. We now get a three-week break, and some of my injured players will be back. We will work from there and see what happens against DPMM in our next game (on 7 October).”
Garena Young Lions: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Rusyaidi Salime, Illyas Lee (C), Amirul Adli, Hafiz Sulaiman, Ammirul Emmran (Zulqarnaen Suzliman 73’), Muhelmy Suhaimi, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Ryan Syaffiq, Taufik Suparno (Haiqal Pashia 46’), Ikhsan Fandi