Match Review: HGFC vs ANFC, 28th August 2015

2015.08.28 HGFC vs ANFC 3A late equalizer in the last minute of regulation time, a goalline clearance in injury time and a controversial referee decision combined as Hougang United were denied all three points and an upset win over Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.

Nurhilmi Jasni had given Hougang United the lead in the first half after receiving a double nutmeg pass from Vuk Sotirovic. The Cheetahs then led for 54 minutes with an impressive defensive display that went undone as Itsuki Yamada salvaged a point for the White Swans. In a flurry of excitement in the final minutes of the game, Fareez Farhan came close to regaining the lead but his shot was blocked by Kento Fujihara right on the goalline.

The Line Ups

2015.08.28 HGFC vs ANFC 2

Only Ridhuan, Meng, Yamashita and Nurhilmi had started in the previous meeting with Albirex back in April.

Hougang United made just one change to their starting line up as Delwinder Singh came in for a suspended Faizal Amir. This was Delwinder’s ninth appearance for the Cheetahs since joining the side in the mid-season transfer window but only his first in the right back position. He had previously played on the left side of defence.

Behind the scenes, there were a question mark over whether Carlos Delgado would be fit to play after suffering a minor groin injury during training on Monday but the Argentinian playmaker pulled through, passing a fitness test to start the game.

There was a surprise to Albirex Niigata’s line up as Atsushi Kawata, their top scorer in all competition, started on the bench. His place in the starting line up was filled by Kento Nagasaki, who was playing his first league game after receiving a straight red card earlier this month against Geylang International. Playmaker Fumiya Kogure and left midfielder Rion Taki were fielding for the first time against the Cheetahs after missing the two sides’ previous meeting back in April through injuries.

First Half

Albirex Niigata dominated possession throughout the first half and had the game’s first solid chance at breaking the deadlock in the 11th minute when Yamada was afforded the space to play a through ball to an unmarked Rui Kumada, who broke clear with a quick turn but blasted his shot high. Three minutes later, Kumada turned provider with a neat backheel to Shun Inaba. Shaking off Nurhilmi and Diego Gama, Inaba then dribbled past Tengku Mushahdad before hitting a shot straight to Ridhuan Barudin.

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Nurhilmi celebrates his goal for the Cheetahs. Photo credit: S.League

Hougang United responded within the same minute of play from a free kick in their own half taken by Tengku. His long ball found Kunihiro Yamashita in the White Swans’ penalty box. The Cheetahs’ top scorer struck with his left feet but his attempt was too strong and too high. It was a similar case for Diego as his close range header in the 18th minute smashed against the crossbar. Fairoz Hasan had sent the cross in after collecting the ball from Carlos.

Against the run of play, it was Hougang United who scored the opening goal in the 34th minute. A long throw in from Delwinder found Vuk on the right. Under pressure from Fujihara, the Serbian striker impressively controlled the ball and from the touchline delivered a pass that nutmeg both Fujihara and Inaba towards an unmarked Nurhilmi’s path. A right footed shot later and the Cheetahs captain had his second goal of the season.

Second Half

Hougang United had the better chances early after the interval. Just two minutes from the resumption of play, Fairoz’s through ball found Vuk but the latter was only able to hit the side netting. Then in the 51st minute, a corner from Fairoz saw Takahiro Saito inexplicably heading towards his own net with Diego right in the ball’s path. The Brazilian’s own header resulted in the ball floating high above the crossbar.

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Diego Gama collides with Takahiro Saito as both players attempt to get the ball. In a different incident, Diego had a penalty shout turned down by referee. Photo credit: S.League

Two minutes later came the game’s moment of controversy. The ball went from Fairoz to Nurhilmi to Vuk and finally to Diego inside the penalty box. Before he could struck the ball, Diego was physically hauled onto the ground by Fujihara’s arms. The commentators on Channel Okto’s live broadcast opined it was a clear penalty but referee Ahmad A’Qashah evidently thought otherwise.

The referee made another questionable decision in the 89th minute when he awarded a free kick to Kawata even though the substitute had slipped entirely by himself. The ensuing free kick was cleared for a throw in on the other side of the field – and it was from this throw in that Albirex Niigata scored their equalizer. Taki provided a long cross from the left that bounced off Shotaro Ihata onto Yamada, whose shot deflected off Tengku’s elbow to evade Ridhuan.

There was still time for some more drama as Hougang United made a quick response. Substitute Fazli Jaffar was unmarked on the left and, after receiving the ball from Carlos Delgado, delivered a cross towards fellow substitute Fareez. The latter’s shot was denied only by a goalline clearance by Fujihara. It was fittingly emblematic of the game as the Cheetahs came so close to attaining all three points but ultimately had to settle for a nonetheless credible draw against the title contenders.

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Delwinder Singh, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad, Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan (Fazli Jaffar 75′), Diego Gama (Fareez Farhan 88′), Vuk Sotirovic

Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa C), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Takahiro Saito, Itsuki Yamada, Hikaru Mizano, Shun Inaba, Kento Nagasaki (Atsushi Kawata 63′), Fumiya Kogure, Rion Taki, Rui Kumada (Shotaro Ihata 75′)

Match Preview: HGFC vs ANFC, 28th August 2015

2015.08.28 HGFC vs ANFC 1When Hougang United hosts Albirex Niigata (S) at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday, they will come face to face with the S.League’s best defensive side. The Japanese team has shipped in just 10 goals in 17 league matches. Even more impressively, they have conceded just 13 goals in 24 matches across all competitions this year, including the League Cup tournament that they won in July.

It is no wonder then that coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama has consistently fielded the same backline barring injuries or suspensions. In between rightback Mikiya Yamada and leftback Itsuki Yamada, the centreback pairing of Kento Fujihara and Takahiro Saito have featured in every game this season. Likewise with goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa, who has the best figures among all regular first choice goalkeepers with 12 conceded goals and 15 clean sheets in his 24 appearances.

In midfield, the defensive pillars of Hikaru Mizuno and Shun Inaba have started almost every game, the sole exception a cup tie that Inaba was suspended for. Ahead of them, playmaker Fumiya Kogure boasts seven assists, the most in his team. Either side of Fumiya are the team’s two top scorers – right midfielder Atsushi Kawata has 9 goals (5 in the league) while left midfielder Rion Taki has 8 goals (6 in the league).

Notwithstanding their midfielders’ contributions, scoring goals have remained an area of concern for the White Swans. After a disappointing haul of just 2 goals in 15 matches, first choice central forward Shotaro Ihata was relegated to the bench with Kawata and Rui Kumada alternating as his replacement. Despite sitting second in the table, Albirex Niigata (S) has scored 9 fewer goals than the teams immediately ahead and behind of them – Brunei DPMM and Warriors respectively. Even Hougang United in eight place has surprisingly outscored Albirex in the league, albeit by a difference of just two. Only the Young Lions and Geylang International have scored fewer goals than the Swans’ haul of 18 in 17 league games.

The Cheetahs will be missing Faizal Amir, suspended after receiving two yellow cards in their previous game. The right back had provided the assist for Vuk Sotirovic’s goal in that same game, the 0:1 away win over Harimau Muda in Melacca. Hougang United has yet to win two games in a row this season and will hope to rectify that against the formidable White Swans.

Hougang United F.C. vs Albirex Niigata (S) F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
28th August 2015, Friday
7:30 pm, Jalan Besar Stadium

Tickets:
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$1.00 (concession)

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Match Review: HM vs HGFC, 19th August 2015

2015.08.19 HM vs HGFC 3Hougang United returned to Singapore with all three points after defeating Harimau Muda 0:1 at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melacca on Wednesday night. Vuk Sotirovic’s goal midway in the first half proved decisive as the Cheetah earned their first win over the Young Tigers in four attempts.

The match was not without controversy as Harimau Muda claimed two penalties, both denied by the referee. Additionally, an unsavory streak lived on as the red card was brandished for the fifth game in a row between the two sides – only this time, it was not just one but three different players who were sent off, one from the visitors and two from the hosts.

The Cheetahs have now gained ten points from a possible eighteen since the resumption of the S.League following the mid-season break. This win, their second in three games, lifted them into seventh place, overtaking the Young Tigers, who still have four games in hand.

The Line Ups

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There were two changes in the starting line-up, both on the left flank.

Salim Moin made two changes to his starting eleven with Delwinder Singh and Fazli Jaffar stepping aside for Lau Meng Meng and Fairoz Hasan respectively. Neither player had started for Hougang United since their involvement in the League Cup competition in early July though they have appeared as substitutes since. Fairoz, one of only two players who have featured in every game this season – the other being Nurhilmi Jasni – was starting his 12th game for the Cheetahs while the veteran left back Lau was starting his 11th game.

Harimau Muda made numerous changes to the line-up with only four players retained from their previous. Five players were also starting their first game since the mid-season break: Wan Ahmad Amirzafran, Kumaahran Sathasivan, Nazirul Naim, Kenny Pallraj, and goalkeeper Ramdhan Hamid. Of this quintet, only Kenny Pallraj had seen any action as a substitute since the resumption of the league. This game also represented an opportunity for Ramdhan to make amends for his side given that his last competitive action in the Harimau Muda jersey got him sent off early in the 3:3 draw with Hougang United back in April.

First Half

With the hosts dominating possession in the early period of the game, Ridhuan Barudin was called to action and performed admirably. At the 9th minute mark, he parried away a close range header by Adam Nor following a cross from the right by Syazwan Andik. A long range strike from Shahrul Igwan in the 21st minute was then tipped over by the Cheetahs’ custodian.

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The Cheetahs bench celebrate Vuk’s goal. Photo credit: S.League

Three minutes later, Hougang United scored against the run of play. A long ball forward by Tengku Mushahdad found Nurhilmi on the right. The captain passed the ball back to an unmarked Faizal Amir who delivered a perfect cross for Vuk to score with a one touch volley. This was the Serbian forward’s fifth goal in seven games for Hougang United.

At the half hour mark, a through ball found Kumaahran clear but a timely interception from Ridhuan cleared the ball – but only as far as Nazirul, whose rebound effort was denied by a quick movement of the goalkeeper’s feet. The Harimau Muda bench felt the initial interception was a foul but the referee thought otherwise.

In the 37th minute, a swift counter attack by the Cheetahs saw Nurhilmi pulling a cut back cross from near the touchline to an unmarked Vuk at the edge of the box but the latter’s effort was just marginally wide of the near post.

Second Half

The Young Tigers had the first chance after the break just as they had in the first half. This time, it was a corner delivered by their top scorer Faizat Ghazali. Centreback Wan Ahmad got to the ball ahead of Ridhuan but his header was wide.

A poor back pass by Nazirul then gifted Diego Gama the ball in the 62nd minute but under pressure from Wan Ahmad, the Brazilian’s effort was just wide of goal. He had another opportunity moments later after receiving a near pass from Vuk but this time his shot went straight to Ramdhan. It would not have counted in any case as the linesman had flagged for offside.

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Faizal Amir was the first player to be sent off for Hougang United this season. Photo credit: S.League

Faizal Amir was dismissed from the game in the 74th minute. A heavy touch from the right back gave the ball to Wan Ahmad and in an attempt to recover possession, Faizal’s heavy challenge resulted in his second yellow card. His first caution had came 16 minutes earlier for a sliding challenge. After 22 games in all competition, Hougang United had their first red card for the season.

Moments later, a long through ball from Adam found Faizat unmarked and onside. Before he could shoot, Nurhilmi swept the ball out from under him. Cue another penalty shout from the hosts but like before, the referee had seen nothing wrong.

The game then descended into farce as the Young Tigers lost control and had two players sent off in the span of just four minutes. A free kick awarded to the Cheetahs in the 80th minute saw an uninvolved Faizat Ghazali needlessly protesting the decision by physically confronting the referee, a move that earned him a red card. Four minutes later, Wan Ahmad delivered a high challenge with his studs on substitute Fareez Farhan’s chest. A similar confrontation on the referee ensued and again the red card followed. In nine minutes, Harimau Muda had contrived to turn a one man advantage into a one man disadvantage.

The foul from Wan Ahmad meant that Fareez Farhan had to be substituted off for Taufiq Ghani. It was the visitors’ last substitution of the game after they had earlier replaced Tengku for Delwinder and Fareez for Fairoz.

Hougang United will next face Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium on the 28th of August 2015.

Harimau Muda: Ramdhan Hamid, Kenny Pallraj, Syawal Nordin, Wan Ahmad Zafran, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (C), Syazwan Andik (Syahrul Azwari 64′), Adam Nor Azlin, Irfan Zakaria, Shahrul Igwan, S. Kumaahran (Arif Anwar 73′), Faizat Ghazali

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Faizal Amir, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Delwinder Singh 46′), Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 61′, Taufiq Ghani 86′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic

Video Credit: S.League

Match Preview: HM vs HGFC, 19th August 2015

2015.08.19 HM vs HGFC 1The last time Hougang United crossed the causeway for a competitive outing, they walked away with a 4:3 win over Harimau Muda at the Pasir Gudang Stadium in Johor. That narrow win came over a year ago, back when the Young Tigers were an under 21 side, and in three encounters since, the Cheetahs have lost twice and drew once with the Malaysian side. On Wednesday night, a revamped Harimau Muda – now an under 22 team – await them at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka.

The Young Tigers have impressed this year with 5 wins from 12 games, a marked improvement from 2014’s bottom placed finish that saw them getting just 6 wins from 27 games. Hougang United had the unfortunate distinction of being the only club that lost twice to the development team that year but neither side have gain an advantage over the other this season following a 3:3 draw at Hougang Stadium in the first round.

A rather dubious streak between the two sides has seen a player sent off in each of their past four encounters. All three matches last year saw a Cheetah sent off while the draw in April had a Young Tiger dismissed. That was Harimau Muda’s only red card this season while Hougang United has avoided receiving any themselves.

Since the resumption of the league, both teams have experienced mixed results. Harimau Muda won twice, including an upset win over title contenders Albirex Niigata (S), and lost their other three games. Hougang United similarly boast just two wins, also including an upset win over another title contender, Warriors, with their three games resulting in a draw and two losses. The solitary point from the draw – against yet another title contender, Brunei DPMM – has allowed the Cheetahs to narrow the gap from Harimau Muda. Now only two points separates the two sides and a win from the Cheetahs will see them take over their rivals’ seventh place in the table. The Young Tigers though have four games in hand and a win for them would put them five points ahead of Hougang United.

Harimau Muda vs Hougang United F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
19th August 2015, Wednesday
8:00 pm, Hang Jebat Stadium, Melaka, Malaysia

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Match Review: BKFC vs HGFC, 7th August 2015

2015.08.07 BKFC vs HGFC 3For the second time in the span of a month, Hougang United lost to Balestier Khalsa with the same 3:2 scoreline at the same venue, Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Tigers might have entered the match with five regular starters out through injuries or suspensions but their absence evidently did not matter with goals coming from Jonathan Xu, Ignatius Ang, and Tarik Cmajcanin. Emir Lotinac scored too, albeit for the wrong side, with centreback Kunihiro Yamashita the Cheetahs’ only goalscorer for the game.

The result saw Hougang United missing an opportunity to move up the table into 7th place while Balestier Khalsa now boast a formidable run of just one loss in their last ten games.

The Line Ups

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There were two changes to Hougang United’s starting eleven.

Atsushi Shimono replaced Taufiq Ghani in the Cheetahs’ starting line-up after missing their past two games on compassionate grounds. The Japanese defensive midfielder’s return also meant his compatriot Yuki Uchiyama had to sit out this game due to the five foreign players limit. That in turn allowed Faizal Amir to make his return to the first eleven.

Hougang United fielded five players in this game that had not started the previous encounter with Balestier Khalsa – goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin, the two full backs Faizal and Delwinder Singh, and the two forwards Diego Gama and Vuk Sotirovic. For Ridhuan, Delwinder, and Sotirovic, this game was additionally their very first encounter with the Tigers all year.

As had been widely expected, Balestier Khalsa were missing forward Robert Pericic, wide midfielder Fadhil Noh and left back Ho Wai Loon through injuries while their top scorer Miroslav Kristic and former Hougang United centreback Igor Cerina were suspended for the game. Their absence paved the way for Ridwan Jamil to start his first game for the Tigers while Xu was handed his first start in 10 games.

Balestier Khalsa also fielded five players in this game that had not started in the previous meeting between the two sides – Yusiskandar Yusop, Hanafi Salleh and Ang as well as Ridwan and Xu. For Yusiskandar and Hanafi, this was their first meeting with the Cheetahs in 2015.

First Half

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The Cheetahs that kicked off the game. Photo credit: S.League

Hougang United dominated the early proceedings of the game and had a good shout for a penalty after just three and a half minutes. Under pressure from Sotirovic, Yusiskandar had appeared to handle the ball inside the penalty box but referee Farhan Mohd waved play on. Sotirovic felt further aggrieved seven minutes later when a high studs up challenge from Ridwan Jamil went unpunished despite visible marks on the Serbian striker’s knees.

Against the run of play, the Cheetahs fell behind at the 20th minute mark. A long ball from Yusiskandar found Xu clear and onside. With three touches of the ball, Xu chipped it over Ridhuan and headed it into an empty net. A few minutes later, Ang won a free kick and delivered a low shot aimed at the near post but the ball deflected off Delwinder’s right feet and abruptly changed trajectory to land into the far net. In the span of five minutes, Balestier Khalsa was leading 2:0.

The Cheetahs came close to scoring in the 35th minute when Carlos Delgado delivered a long ball that found Sotirovic in the box but the latter’s header was comfortably collected by Zaiful Nizam. Their best chance of the first half came right before the break from the same combination – a corner taken by Delgado saw Sotirovic heading the ball wide.

Second Half

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Kunihiro was the only goalscorer for the Cheetahs. Photo credit: S.League

Hougang United started the second half explosively and were quickly rewarded with a goal within two minutes of the resumption of play. From the left, Fazli delivered a low cross that Gama flicked onto Lotinac for a deflection into goal.

A mere minute later, Sotirovic delivered a volley to get the ball to his strike partner but Gama’s own first touch volley was too powerful and overshot the crossbar. In the 53rd minute, Gama turned provider as he made an impressive run down the left before crossing the ball across the goalmouth with Sotirovic just a metre too far to tap the ball in.

It was all Cheetahs for the first twelve minutes of the second half until Delwinder was adjudged to have fouled Zulkiffli Hassim. A farcical scene then followed as Ridhuan easily collected the ball from the ensuing free kick before attempting to roll it out quickly for a counter attack. The ball deflected off the referee and back towards Xu at the edge of the box. With Ridhuan well off his line, it was down to Faizal to make a timely interception and block Xu’s shot for a throw in.

From the resulting throw in, Ang prevented Faizal from getting the ball with an outstretched left leg that caused the right back to stumble onto the ground. The referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge as Ang cut inside the box and delivered a pass to an unmarked Tarik whose left footed shot restored Balestier Khalsa’s two goals lead.

A string of substitutions then followed as Kunihiro moved to an upfront role. The tactical switch paid off, albeit a little too late, as Hougang United pulled back the deficit in the 90th minute. Fareez Farhan – who had replaced Fazli – lobbed the ball to Gama who chested it down for Kunihiro to score at close range. With four minutes of injury left, the Cheetahs piled the pressure. A shot from Gama was parried away by Zaiful for a corner. From the set piece, the ball was cleared away and Ridhuan, in the centre circle, delivered a long ball that completely evaded the Tigers’ offside trap. Kunihiro struck a volley but his shot was too high.

Hougang United will have 11 days to bounce back from the defeat before they cross the causeway for the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca to face Harimau Muda.

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (C), Yusiskandar Yusop, Hanafi Salleh, Emir Lotinac, Ahmad Syahir, Ridwan Jamil (Nurullah Hussein 76′), Jonathan Xu (Hazzuwan Halim 66′), Zulkiffli Hassim, Poh Yifeng, Tarik Cmajcanin, Ignatius Ang (Afiq Salman Tan 81′)

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Faizal Amir (Fairoz Hasan 70′), Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad, Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado (Taufiq Ghani 87′), Atsushi Shimono, Fazli Jaffar (Fareez Farhan 57′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic

Match Preview: BKFC vs HGFC, 7th August 2015

2015.08.07 BKFC vs HGFC 1For the second game in a row, Hougang United will be playing against an under strength opposition when they face off against Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday. While Warriors were missing Nicholas Velez through injury and Marin Vidosevic though an early red card in their loss to the Cheetahs on Tuesday night, the Tigers could be missing up to five of their regular starters, including three of their foreign players.

Forward Robert Pericic, wide midfielder Fadhil Noh, and left back Ho Wai Loon have all been injured since their win over the other Tigers – the younger, Malaysian variety – and the trio sat out Balestier’s subsequent draws against the Young Lions and Home United. As if the injury crisis was not enough of a headache for coach Marko Kraljević, their last match saw centreback Igor Cerina receiving his fourth yellow card of the season while Miroslav Kristic received a straight red card. Both players will consequently be suspended for Friday’s game.

Kristic will be particularly missed by his side as their top scorer with 15 goals in all domestic competition – 9 in the league, 6 in the league cup. Only Brunei DPMM’s Rafael Ramazotti has scored more with 16 goals. Balestier Khalsa could be forgiven for remaining confident though. After all, they have been on a good run with just one loss in their last nine games, one of which was a 1:0 win over Albirex Niigata (S) in the absence of Kristic, who was suspended for that game after accumulating four yellow cards.

The Cheetahs and Tigers have already faced each twice this year with both games ending in a narrow win for the larger cats in the pantherinae subfamily. Vuk Sotirovic has yet to play against Balestier Khalsa though since joining Hougang United in the mid-season transfer window. Since recovering from an injury that saw him missed the League Cup tie between the two sides, the Serbian striker has scored three goals in two games and will undoubtedly be looking for more as he face his compatriots Emir Lotinac and Tarik Cmajcanin.

Balestier Khalsa F.C. vs Hougang United F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
7th August 2015, Friday
7:30 pm, Jalan Besar Stadium

Tickets:
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$1.00 (concession)

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Match Review: HGFC vs WRFC, 4th August 2015

2015.08.04 HGFC vs WRFC 3Hougang United won by their largest margin of victory for the year as they defeated Warriors F.C. at Hougang Stadium on Tuesday night in the S.League competition. The result saw the Cheetahs moving ahead of the Young Lions and Geylang International into 8th place while Warriors were denied their opportunity to regain the top position from Albirex Niigata (S).

The game took a surprising turn early on when Marin Vidosevic was shown a red card after just three and a half minutes of play for using abusive language towards the referee. It is the sort of misdemeanor that a professional player should know better than to commit. The shocking lapse in indiscipline effectively cost Warriors the game though it did not initially appeared to be the case when Fazrul Nawaz equalized to bring the teams back on level terms following Kunihiro Yamashita’s opener.

The one man disadvantage eventually took its toll on the Warriors as the Cheetahs ran riot in the second half with Vuk Sotirovic scoring a brace before Diego Gama settled the contest with a decisive penalty kick.

Line-Up

2015.07.29 DPMM vs HGFC 2

The same side that drew 1:1 with Brunei DPMM started this match against Warriors.

There were no changes to Hougang United’s starting eleven with head coach Salim Moin electing to field the same side that secured an away draw with Brunei DPMM the previous week. Taufiq Ghani started his second match for the Cheetahs in the continued absence of Atsushi Shimono on compassionate grounds.

The squad was markedly different from the side that lost 1:0 to Warriors earlier in the season at Woodlands Stadium. Of the 11 players that started that match, only 4 started in this one – goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin, the Japanese defenders Yamashita and Yuki Uchiyama, and captain Nurhilmi Jasni.

As for Warriors, the crowd at Hougang Stadium were denied a chance to watch their formidable attacking trio of Fazrul Nawaz, Nicholas Velez and Miroslav Pejic in action. Evidently still recovering from an injury, Pejic started on the bench while Velez, bound for the Indian Super League, was not in the line-up at all. The Argentinian’s replacement, Karlo Ivancic, was largely anonymous in this game though whether that would have been the case with parity in numbers can only be speculated.

First Half

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The two goalscorers in the first half – Kunihiro Yamashita with the opener and Fazrul Nawaz with the equalizer. Photo credit: S.League

The deadlock was broken early in the 11th minute after a cross from Uchiyama was flicked by Nurhilmi’s back heel onto Yamashita’s path. The Japanese centreback’s previous four goals for the Cheetahs had all been headers from set pieces but here, he scored with a low shot delivered by his right foot in open play.

The lead was nearly wiped off just five minutes later when a free kick taken by Hafiz Rahim was cleared away by Delwinder Singh. Irwan Shah collected the ball at some distance away and his long range effort bounced on the top netting.

Sotirovic then had a chance for Hougang United in the 18th minute with a fierce strike that was just wide off the near post. Eight minutes later, he had a shot intercepted by goalkeeper Daniel Ong. Fazli Jaffar got the rebound but his header was too high.

Warriors’ equalizer came in the 29th minute after Fazrul Nawaz played a through ball to Hafiz who laid on a pass for an unmarked Kevin McCann. Close to the six yard line, the Scot unleashed a short cross for Fazrul to tap in.

In an exhilarating first half, the Cheetahs came close to retaking the lead on a number of occasions. In the 31st minute, Gama struck the near post with a near distance shot and then two minutes later, Sotirovic lobbed the ball over Ong and into the net but the linesman at the far end ruled the goal out for offside. The two forwards then combined in the 44th minute with Gama delivering a thunderous header from Sotirovic’s cross. Ong was only able to palm the shot away for Gama to have another opportunity but his rebound effort struck the side netting.

Second Half

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Vuk Sotirovic celebrates with Yuki Uchiyama after scoring his second goal to give Hougang United a 3:1 lead. Photo credit: S.League

Warriors returned to the field with a change as Hamqaamal Shah made way for Pejic. The Croatian forward had little impact on the game though and it was instead Sotirovic that provided the crucial difference between the two sides when he scored a brace within a quarter hour period.

The lead was regained in the 63rd minute following a long through pass by Carlos from within Hougang United’s half. Sotirovic twisted and turned to shake off his marker, Daniel Bennett, before unleashing a left footed strike that found the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the penalty box.

Following the goal, the Cheetahs made their first change of the game, replacing Fazli Jaffar with Fareez Farhan. The substitution proved inspired as Fareez took a corner in the 78th minute and delivered a cross that was headed by Delwinder Singh towards Sotirovic. The latter made no mistakes with his own goal-bound header.

In the 86th minute, a breakaway counter attack with another inspired through ball from Carlos ended only after Gama was brought down by Andy Ahmad. The resulting penalty kick was taken by Gama himself and his shot was beyond Ong’s reach. The game was effectively over but there was still time for Hougang United to come close to adding a fifth when Fareez Farhan provided a perfect cross to an unmarked and onside Fairoz Hasan, whose saw his right footed volley parried away.

Hougang United will have just two days to recover before their next game against Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium on the 7th of August, Friday.

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Yuki Uchiyama, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Lau Meng Meng 82′), Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Taufiq Ghani (Fairoz Hasan 80′), Fazli Jaffar (Fareez Farhan 67′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic

Warriors FC: Daniel Ong, Emmeric Ong (Andy Ahmad 85′), Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic, Irwan Shah, Syaqir Sulaiman, Kevin McCann, Karlo Ivancic, Hafiz Rahim (Shi Jiayi 72′), Hamqaamal Shah (Miroslav Pejic 46′), Fazrul Nawaz

Video credit: S.League

Match Preview: HGFC vs WRFC, 4th August 2015

2015.08.04 HGFC vs WRFC 1On Tuesday night, Hougang United will host the reigning 2014 S.League champions Warriors F.C. at Hougang Stadium. It will be the second time the two sides square off this year after an earlier encounter back in April saw Warriors emerging victorious with a 1:0 scoreline at Woodlands Stadium.

Both teams will be heading into this match on the back of stalemates from their preceding games. Hougang United would have been pleased returning to Singapore with a point after their 1:1 away draw with Brunei DPMM. Warriors, on the other hand, might have viewed their 2:2 home draw with Home United on Thursday as two points dropped since their opponents, down to ten men, had equalized only in the 90th minute. That result also allowed title rivals Albirex Niigata (S) to overtake Warriors at the summit of the S.League table after their 0:2 win over Geylang International on Sunday.

Warriors are the only team in the competition that boast two different players in the current top 5 goalscorers – Fazrul Nawaz in second place with 9 goals and Nicholas Velez in joint 4th place with 7 goals. The latter has also provided 6 assists, one less than his teammate Miroslav Pejic who has 4 goals to his name. Together, the formidable attacking trio has scored 20 of their team’s 24 league goals but Hougang United could well be one of the last teams to face this trio after Velez recently announced he will be departing later this month for Indian Super League side NorthEast United F.C.

Hougang United has a poor record against Warriors with just one win in their last ten encounters. That one win though came the last time the two sides squared off at the Cheetahs’ home ground, Hougang Stadium, back in June 2014. Fazli Jaffar was one of the goalscorers in that game. He was on the winning side then and after making a switch to Warriors at the start of the year, he was also on the winning side in the teams’ previous encounter in April. Now following a mid-season transfer window that saw Fazli Jaffar returning to Hougang, the Cheetahs faithful will be hoping that Fazli once again feature on the winning side.

Hougang United F.C. vs Warriors F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
4th August 2015, Tuesday
7:30 pm, Hougang Stadium

Tickets:
$5.00 (adults)
$1.00 (concession)

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Match Review: DPMM vs HGFC, 29th July 2015

2015.07.29 DPMM vs HGFC 3Hougang United walked away with a point from the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium after a 1:1 draw with Brunei DPMM on Wednesday. Mid-season signing Vuk Sotirovic secured the equalizer in the second half to cancel out Azwan Ali’s opener. This was the Serbian striker’s second goal in as many games against the Wasps – he had scored the winner in their League Cup encounter just 36 days ago.

The stalemate prevented Brunei DPMM from topping the table while Hougang United moved one point closer to Geylang International after the latter lost 2:0 to Tampines Rovers earlier in the same evening.

The result also saw the Cheetahs remaining the only team to have denied the competition’s current top scorer Rafael Ramazotti from finding the net. Despite an impressive tally of 15 goals in 15 matches thus far, 12 from 12 in the S.League, the Brazilian striker has now failed to score against Hougang United in three games.

The Line-Ups

2015.07.29 DPMM vs HGFC 2

Vuk Sotirovic and Taufiq Ghani were added to the starting line-up in place of Fareez Farhan and Atsushi Shimono.

Salim Moin made two changes to the starting line up that lost 0:3 to Tampines Rovers on Friday. After missing three games through injury, Sotirovic replaced Fareez Farhan upfront as Diego Gama’s strike partner while Taufiq Ghani came in the side for the absent Atsushi Shimono. The Japanese defensive midfielder had returned to his home country the previous day on compassionate grounds.

This was Taufiq’s first start of the season after three prior appearances as a substitutes, the first of which lasted for 120 minutes after coming on as an early substitute for an injured Shunsuke Nakatake in the Singapore Cup tie with Global F.C., a game that only ended in extra time. Coincidentally, it was that injury to Nakatake that saw his compatriot Shimono joining the side as a mid-season replacement.

Brunei DPMM’s Shahrazen Said was also making his first start of the season in place for the suspended Paulo Sergio, who had to sit out this match after accumulating his fourth yellow card in his team’s 1:1 draw against Young Lions on Sunday. Adi Said was another suspended player after receiving a straight red card in the same game. Centre-back Brian McLean made his return to the starting line-up after serving his own two match suspension.

First Half

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Hougang United’s starting line-up. Photo credit: S.League

Fittingly enough, the game’s two eventual goalscorers both had their team’s first shot at goal. Azwan needed only two minutes to produce a close range effort that rocked the crossbar while Sotirovic’s strike in the 12th minute went straight to Wardun Yussof.

Brunei DPMM’s attacking intent were clear as they dominated the early game. A header by McLean went mere inches wide of the post while sound positioning and quick interventions from Hougang United’s backline denied attempts from Shahrazen and Hendra Azam.

A timely block by Tengku Mushahdad to deny a shot from Azwan backfired spectacularly when the ball deflected off Kunihiro Yamashita and rebounded right back to Azwan. Switching to his left feet, Azwan’s follow-up drove past Ridhuan Barudin into the far post for the Wasps to take the lead in the 33rd minute of the game.

Two minutes later, Shahrazen made a sensational dribble to shake off two defenders and crossed the ball past another but Rafael’s sliding in attempt to tap the ball home saw the ball going over the crossbar instead.

Second Half

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Vuk Sotirovic (middle) attempts a free kick here but it was an opposition free kick that ultimately led to his equalizer. Photo credit: S.League

The second half started in the same way as the first half with a near chance at goal from Brunei DPMM within two minutes from kick off. This time, a spectacular leap by Ridhuan tipped Hendra’s shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar. Minutes later, Azwan struck a deep cross to find an unmarked Shahrazen in the box but the latter could only hit the side netting with his attempt at goal.

The Wasps’ dominance meant that Hougang United had to defend for most of the game and it was from defending a set piece with ten men that the Cheetahs launched a swift counter attack that gave them the equalizer in the 69th minute. The goal was a team effort that started at the other end with a Brunei DPMM free kick taken by Joe Gamble. Yamashita headed the ball away but only as far as Rosmin Kamis. Delwinder Singh and Lau Meng Meng combined to retrieve the ball and clear it out of the box. Carlos Delgado then swept the ball wide to Fazli and the counter was truly on. A long ball upfield was intercepted by a header from Sairol Sahari back to Nurhilmi Jasni’s path. The captain rolled the ball forward to Sotirovic, who turned and struck a right footed low curler around Wardun.

The Wasps piled on the pressure thereafter but more solid defending from the Cheetahs – and another diving save from Ridhuan in the 89th minute to deny Azwan – saw the points split evenly at the final whistle.

The visitors will turn hosts when Hougang United next face Warriors F.C. at Hougang Stadium on the 4th of August.

Brunei DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Aminuddin Zakwan, Boris Raspudic, Brian McLean, Sairol Sahari, Hendra Azam (Yura Indera Putera 81′), Joseph Gamble, Rosmin Kamis (C), Azwan Ali, Shahrazen Said, Rafael Ramazotti

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Yuki Uchiyama, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Lau Meng Meng 66′), Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Taufiq Ghani, Fazli Jaffar (Fairoz Hasan 83′), Vuk Sotirovic, Diego Gama

Video credit: S.League

Shimono given compassionate leave

Atsushi Shimono has been granted leave to return to Japan on compassionate grounds. Hougang United Football Club offers its deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to Shimono and his family. They are all in our thoughts and prayers.