Hougang United FC went top of the table after carving out a 1-0 victory against Balestier Khalsa FC on Saturday night with yet another goal from hotshot Stipe Plazibat.
The Cheetahs went into the game knowing a win will push them to the top of the league table and also end the 5-years record of failing to beat the Tigers in the league.
They showed hunger right from the get-go and within minutes of the kick-off, a long ball was played behind the Tigers backline and Stipe broke the offside trap and chested the ball down before firing at goal but was denied by the outstretched leg of Zaiful Nizam.
The Tigers were still trying to regroup when captain Jozef Kaplan sent in a teasing cross and Fairoz Hasan who came charging in at the far post could only rocket his shot above the crossbar from 6-yards out.
The Cheetahs showed their dominance again when they created another chance with Kaplan the main orchestrator. Receiving the ball at the halfway line, Kaplan went on a direct attack on open space before playing a pass to Stipe who returned the ball via a neat backheel but could only dragged his shot wide off the post.
Balestier Khalsa tried to get into the game and they nearly went ahead when Hougang United’s custodian Khairulhin Khalid saw his kick charged down by Fadhil Noh and bounce off his back towards goal. To the relief of the Hougang faithfuls sitting in the opposite stands, the ball landed on top of the netting. Another chance went begging when Smajovic Sadin got the better of Faiz Salleh down the right wing and his pass found a lurking Hazzuwan Halim whose shot was saved by a diving Khairulhin.
Hougang United kept up the tempo after the restart and Kaplan was presented with another opportunity to break his goal drought. A cross from Fumiya Kogure was chest down by the Slovakian but his ferocious left foot shot was way above the crossbar.
Against the run of play, Balestier created their own chances when Smajovic was given time and space to dribble towards the penalty box and played a pass towards an unmarked Hazzuwan on the left but the youngster could only slice his shot wide.
Jamil Ali twice nearly got his name on the scoresheet after coming on in place of the injured Fadhil during the 1st half. Fazli Ayob played a pass forward towards Jamil. Despite Delwinder Singh in close attention, Khairulhin rushed off his line and was fortunate that Jamil lobbed was too high.
The big scare came when another lofted pass found Jamil but with Wahyudi Wahid and Nazrul Nazari closing down on the attacker, Khairulhin was caught in no man’s land when he decided to rush off his line and could only watch as Jamil lobbed the ball towards goal. As luck would have it, the ball bounced inches wide of the post to the disbelief of the Tigers bench.
Hougang United finally took the lead in the 82nd minutes when Fumiya’s freekick into the penalty box was headed into space by Kaplan and Stipe was again the beneficiary as he headed the ball into the empty goal after Zaiful had came out to challenge Kaplan for the cross. The Hougang hotshot has now scored 5 goals in 5 matches and leads the goal poachers pack with Warrior’s Jonathan Behe as joint top scorers.
There was still enough time for another goal when M.Anumanthan sent a defence splitting pass to Huzaifah Aziz but his 1st time shot from the edge of the penalty box soared into the sky.
Referee Ahmad A’Qashah blew for full time and the crowd were treated to an entertaining match with end-to-end actions from both teams.
The S.League will take a 2 weeks break due to International Week and will resume on 1 April when the Cheetahs travels to Jalan Besar stadium for a ‘Live’ telecast match against Albirex Niigata (S) after the match was reschedule a day earlier due to the national team involvement for the World Cup Qualifier.
#Passion has its place…..#football is NOTHING without fans….
Photos courtesy of Haiqal Tahar