In a match billed as the battle of dark horses, Hougang United FC ended Geylang International FC unbeaten run in the 2016 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League with a comfortable 3-1 victory after being down 0-1 at halftime. The Eagles also have not won against the Cheetahs in any of the sides last seven matches.
It was a match of 2 halves with the Eagles showing more desire and intent in the 1st half with their high pressing and attacking movements in the final 3rd. Gabriel Quek were given time and space down the left while Amy Recha who was deployed on the right wing were able to prevent the Cheetahs fullbacks from making any forays down the wings. But it was a totally different story when both sides returned after the break with the men in orange moving up a gear and take the game to the visitor who was hanging on to their narrow lead.
Coach Bala reshuffled the side that went down 0-2 to Albirex Niigata last weekend with Khairulhin Khalid in goal, M.Anumanthan partnering Yusiskandar Yusop in the centre of defense and were flanked by the ever-reliable Nazrul Nazari and Faiz Salleh. Raihan Rahman also made the team after he passed a late fitness test and hardworking Nurhilmi Jasni taking over Anu’s place alongside Raihan. Fairoz Hasan, Jozef Kaplan and Fumiya Kogure formed the attacking midfield trio to provide the ammunition for hot-shot Stipe Plazibat.
As the teams march out for the match, Hougang faithful supporters “Hougang Hools” unveiled a gigantic handmade tifo bearing the wording “Satu Hati Satu Hougang – Hougang Kami Selamanya”, a first in a S.League match.
Both teams started the match with free flowing football and it didn’t take long for the Cheetahs to earn their 1st corner which was easily cleared away by Al-Qaasimy and captain Jozef could only fired wide after Fumiya’s cross from the right found him unmarked.
The Eagles were awarded a penalty in the 15 minutes after Fumiya were judged to have tripped Sahil Suhaimi in the penalty box and referee Sukhbir Singh pointed to the spot without hesitation. Former Cheetahs Carlos Delgado stepped up and send Khairulhin the wrong way from the spot to put the Eagles in the lead.
With momentum on their side, the Eagles continued to push forward and pegged the Cheetahs backline and Carlos again tested Khairulhin with a shot from outside the box but was comfortably held by the Hougang custodian.
The Cheetahs huffed and puffed and had their best opportunity to level the score when Nurhilmi reacted fastest to a Fumiya freekick but Syazwan Buhari produced a fine reflex save to keep the score in favor to the Eagles as both teams heads into the break.
Hougang United upped the tempo after the restart and Nurhilmi could only see his shot saved by Syazwan after his attempt just just outside the 18-yards box. Bouyed by the positives attacking moves, Stiple had his opportunity to level things up after he exchanges passes with Kaplan before receiving the ball back and advancing passed Daniel Bennet but could only see his shot hit the side netting with the goal at his mercy.
In the 54 minutes, the Cheetah were awarded a penalty of their own after Fumiya was brought down in the box by 38-years old Daniel and Stiple coolly tucked the ball into goal for his 6th goal of the season.
Within minutes after the equalizing goal, the Cheetahs went ahead for the 1st time in the match when Faiz scored his 1st ever goal for Hougang when he stooped low and directed Fumiya’s corner over the wrong footed Syazwan into goal and the crowd went wild.
Geylang tried to crawl their way back into the game and could have equalized in the 70th minutes had Gabriel been more composed with his shot but he could only fired wide. Sahil was next to have another crack at Hougang goal after receiving a reverse pass from Stanely Ng before side-stepping past Yusiskandar and Raihan but fine positioning from Khairulhin prevented the ball from finding the back of the net.
Hougang continued to press forward and were duly rewarded when Raihan received a cross field pass from Iqbal Hussain who had came on for Fairoz in the 2nd half and he easily went passed the fast tiring Carlos and thumped his volley into the far corner to set off ecstatic celebration for his 1st ever goal in Hougang color.
With the 4th win of the campaign, the Cheetahs sits just behind Tampines Rovers FC who had earlier brushed aside Balestier Khalsa FC 1-0 at Jurong West Stadium.
The Cheetahs next match will be against Warriors FC at Choa Chu Kang stadium on 14 April 2016, Thursday.
- Photos courtesy of Haiqal Tahir