With the S.League on a short hiatus due to the general elections, we take a look back at our team’s progress in the second round of the competition.
Hougang United has played a total of 23 games thus far this year – 18 in the league and five in the cup competitions. The second round of the league saw the Cheetahs winning four games, drawing twice and losing thrice, a marked improvement to the team’s performance in the first round when they were only able to secure four draws while enduring five losses.
The second round did not began well though with a 4:0 drubbing by Home United. Prior losses had been by slim margins. This one though was a humiliation. From that low point in the season though, the team quickly rebounded and finally secured their first win in their next game, a hard fought 1:0 victory over Geylang International.
That first win also saw Tengku Mushahdad making his first appearance for the Cheetahs. His promotion to the starting eleven might have quietly made the most difference to the side. Boasting the highest rate of interception in the team, Tengku’s presence has undoubtedly played a part in halving his team’s rate of losses from 60% to 30%.
The end of May saw the S.League going on a break for two months as the cup competitions took centre stage. Hougang United were knocked out in extra time from the Singapore Cup by Global F.C. It proved to be a turning point as the club embarked on a wholesale change to the squad, replacing five players with six new signings, including three former Cheetahs in Carlos Delgadgo, Diego Gama, and Fazli Jaffar. The changes had an immediate impact in the League Cup tournament as Hougang United stunned the defending champions Brunei DPMM with an upset 1:0 win. Two of the new signings had combined for the winning goal with Carlos providing the assist for Serbian striker Vuk Sotirovic.
Successive draws with Geylang International and Singapore Recreation Club were enough to qualify Hougang United for the League Cup’s semi-finals where they were knocked out 3:2 by Balestier Khalsa. In the seven games since the 4:0 loss to Home United, the Cheetahs had fielded five different centreback combinations, including a short lived experiment with a back three. The resumption of the S.League competition in July saw a previously injured Kunihiro Yamashita partnering Tengku Mushahdad for the first time. This partnership has since remained a constant in the side’s line-up.
A 1:3 win over the Young Lions was followed by 0:3 loss to Tampines Rovers. An impressive 1:1 away draw with Brunei DPMM led to a 4:1 win over Warriors before the team came crashing down again with a 3:2 loss to bogey team Balestier Khalsa. Hougang United has thus far lost all five matches to Balestier Khalsa and Tampines Rovers. On the other hand, the Cheetahs have maintained an undefeated record against the Young Lions, Harimau Muda and Geylang International this year with draws in the first round followed by wins in the second round. That second round concluded with a 0:1 win over Harimau Muda and a commendable 1:1 draw with title contenders Albirex Niigata.
Kunihiro Yamashita remains our top scorer with 6 goals in 18 appearances but Vuk Sotirovic is close on his heels. The Serbian striker has scored 5 goals in 737 minutes across 8 games, averaging a goal every 147 minutes. He has also contributed an assist. Argentinian playmaker Carlos Delgado has the most number of assists in our team with five. He has also scored a goal.
Among our local players, Nurhilmi Jasni has provided 4 assists – only behind Carlos – and 2 goals. Nurhilmi is one of only two players who has featured in every game this season for the Cheetahs. The other, Fairoz Hassan, has also scored twice. Goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin and left-midfielder Fareez Farhan are next in the appearance stakes, both featuring in 19 out of 23 games.
The third round of the S.League will kick off tonight when Albirex Niigata take on Tampines Rovers at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Hougang United though will have to wait until the 17th of September before their next match when they face Home United at the same venue. Ties with Geylang International and the Young Lions follow before a formidable run against Tampines Rovers, Brunei DPMM, Warriors and Balestier Khalsa. Following a final home game with Harimau Muda, the Cheetahs’ 2015 campaign will conclude with an away match against Albirex Niigata.