Hougang United was defeated for the third time in as many games when they lost to Warriors at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Monday evening. A brace from Fazrul Nawaz settled the affair on behalf of the defending champions but not without an element of controversy. The first goal came from the penalty spot but it was the second goal that proved contentious with video replays revealing that Fazrul was clearly offside in the build up.
A collision early on saw Warriors relying on their Prime League goalkeeper, Nur Amin Malik, for most of the game. In an unlikely turn of events, the 20 years old reserve keeper that had let in 5 goals from Albirex Niigata (S) in his previous S.League appearance back in March now became the first Warriors goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in 14 games. He was aided by a commanding performance from his side’s backline that effectively nullified any threat from the Cheetahs.
The Line Ups
Kunihiro Yamashita was a surprising omission from the side as head coach Salim Moin elected to field a quicker backline to deal with Warrior’s offensive threat. Prime League defender Yuki Uchiyama was elected to pair up with Delwinder Singh, resulting in the eight centreback partnership Hougang United has used this season. Faiz Salleh retained his starting place in left back while Ruzaini Zainal returned to the right back position after playing right midfield against Tampines Rovers.
Both Carlos Delgado and Nurhilmi Jasni returned to their familiar positions after being rested for the previous game. Taufiq Ghani was selected to play in the left midfield role, his first start since early August when the Cheetahs last met the Warriors.
As for the hosts, Shahrul Rayyan was designated as a starter in the absence of their usual goalkeeper Daniel Ong. Shahrul had previously made five starts. Shi Jiayi and Thomas Beattie were also back in the first eleven after the duo had missed out their previous game.
The First Half
The home side dominated the first two minutes with three successive crosses, the third from a corner. Hougang United’s first attack in the 3rd minute of the game resulted in a clash of heads between Nurhilmi and former Cheetahs defender Syaqir Sulaiman. After receiving treatment, the two players were able to continue the game but the incident would turn out to be a harbinger of sorts.
In the 16th minute, a free kick cross sent in by Delgado resulted in a collision between Uchiyama and Shahrul. The match doctor was called onto the field as the game paused for a few minutes. Uchiyama was able to remain on the field but Shahrul had to be substituted off for Nur Amin Malik, who was making only his second appearance in the S.League competition this year.
The opening goal came in the 43rd minute after Uchiyama had bundled against Fazrul as they chased after a cross from Hafiz Rahim. Referee Nathan Chan had no hesitation as he pointed at the penalty spot. Fazrul took the penalty himself and while Ridhuan Barudin managed to get his hand onto the ball, the shot was just too powerful to be denied.
The Second Half
Six minutes following the interval, Fazrul had an opportunity to double his side’s lead but his header off a Miroslav Pejic cross was too high. Less than sixty seconds later at the other end, Nurhilmi’s long distance effort similarly went sailing over the crossbar. Sotirovic won a free kick in the 58th minute near the edge of the box but he wasn’t able to replicate the quality goal he scored against Brunei DPMM in their previous match. This time around, his shot was too powerful and resulted in a goal kick.
The miss proved to be costly as Warriors doubled their lead just three minutes later, albeit through dubious means. A pass from Karlo Ivancic to Fazrul should have been flagged for offside but instead Fazrul was allowed to pass the ball to Pejic, who then delivered a short chip that saw Fazrul racing clear, going one on one with Ridhuan and slotting the ball home.
Hougang United made a flurry of changes with Muhaymin Salim, Fareez Farhan and Faizal Amir coming on to replace Carlos Delgado, Taufiq Ghani and Ruzaini Zainal respectively but there was to be no change in the scoreline.
The Cheetahs will next play Balestier Khalsa at Hougang Stadium on the 3rd of November.
Warriors: Shahul Rayyan (Nur Amin Malik 21′), Syaqir Sulaiman, Marin Vidosevic, Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah, Thomas Beattie, Shi Jiayi, Karlo Ivancic (Emmeric Ong 90+2′), Miroslav Pejic, Hafiz Rahim (Hamqamaal Shah 90+2′), Fazrul Nawaz
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Ruzaini Zainal (Faizal Amir 78′), Delwinder Singh, Yuki Uchiyama, Faiz Salleh, Taufiq Ghani (Fareez Farhan 72′), Atsushi Shimono, Carlos Delgado (Muhaymin Salim 72′),Nurhilmi Jasni, Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic