Trailing Tampines Rovers by a single point, nothing less than a win would have sufficed last night, but everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.
It was Brunei DPMM FC who started the brightest, applying some heavy pressure to the five-man backline of the Tigers, but despite in spite of spending large periods of time in the Balestier half, they had to resort to long potluck shots from outside of the box, hoping the rain-drenched pitch would lend them a helping hand, but Zakariah Nerani stood strong.
Azwan Saleh registered Brunei DPMM FC's first shot on target in the 17th minute, when his vicious effort went straight down the keeper's throat.
Next up was Ivan Jerkovic on the half hour mark, whose well-placed effort forced Zakariah into a save low down to his left.
When Balestier did venture out of their own half on the counter, it was Wardun Yusof who kept Brunei DPMM FC in the game, with two vital saves, both coming from Ruhaizad Ismail in the opening stages of the second half
Zdravko Dragicevic appeared a lonely figure in white up front for majority of the game, the Montenegrin leading the Tigers attacking line by himself, but the 26-year-old did produce a few moments of magic which turned some heads on occasion.
For all Brunei DPMM FC's best efforts, they simply had no penetration and were left with no answer as to how to breach the Balestier Khalsa defence after the Tigers had quite apparently 'parked the bus'.
Having absorbed all of Brunei DPMM FC's pressure, and dealt with everything the Bruneians threw at them, the Tigers, sensing the fatigue growing within their opponents, went on the offensive, and 10 minutes from time, they were duly awarded for a fine counter-attacking play.
Skipper Rosmin Kamis, who has been one of Brunei DPMM FC's most consistent players, clumsily lost possession in the middle of the pitch, and was made to regret that lapse in concentration, as the ball was sprayed wide left to substitute Andrew Tan, who dinked a delightful ball across the face of goal, with Zulkifli Hassim heading home from three yards out.
With Brunei DPMM FC pushing further and further up the pitch in search of two goals, it was only a matter of time before the Tigers pounced once more.
Zdravko Dragicevic collected the ball after a Brunei DPMM FC corner and with all the yellow shirts in Balestier's half, the striker set Park Kang Jin through in on goal, and the South Korean finished the move with a delicate chip over Wardun Yusof to kill the game off with four minutes to go.
Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman, who replaced Ampuan Nurul Azami, earned his marching orders for two yellow cards in the aftermath of the goal for his over-excessive protests, with fans rushing for the exits as it all boiled over.
It was a bitter blow for Brunei DPMM FC, who would have finished second even if they had won the game after Fahrudin Mustafic's 41st minute penalty sealed the deal for Tampines Rovers.
For Balestier Khalsa, however, it was another smash and grab victory which resulted in their 13th clean sheet of the 24-game S League season.
The Tigers' head coach, Darren Stewart, could not have been happier with the result, but was quick to give his charges the credit they fully deserved.
"Credit to the lads, they were tremendous," exclaimed the Australian.
"Everything we worked on in training, worked out for us tonight. I couldn't single anyone out, every player was superb," he added.
"Our goal was not to concede early, and the substitutions work, but that was a bit lucky, and so I'm not seeking any credit for that.
"The boys were up for everything and I thought the crowd tonight was awesome, and in the end, we beat a quality team with an excellent coach," chirped Stewart.
For Vjeran Simunic, however, it was back to the drawing board after his charges finished second in the S League, which far exceeded their start of season expectations, with Brunei DPMM FC bagging a cool $75,000 for their efforts.
"When we found out the result at Tampines, we were down at halftime," bemoaned Simunic.
The Croatian knew what he was coming up against before the game, and decided to go for broke with that elusive first S League title at stake.
"Balestier have the best organisational defence, so we had to take a risk to win the game, and they punished us for it.
"My players did their best, but we were under pressure to do more. We knew the result of the Tampines game and knew our dream (of winning the title) was gone."
Article taken from Borneo Bulletin
despite the heavy rain, it was still a good turnout from the crowd...
had to do their warm-up inside due to the rain
referee of the night giving a green light to proceed with the match
flurry of cards were shown as the match progress
and the crowds left as soon as DPMM FC were trailing by 2-0
nevertheless, despite missing from the football scene for 3 years, it is still a remarkable feat to finish as runners-up... congrats DPMM FC!
Thumb up from the fans... til we meet again next season...