Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
A first-half brace from Japanese playmaker Fumiya Kogure helped Hougang United cruise to a 4-1 victory over invitee Nagaworld FC in the first leg of their RHB Singapore Cup 2017 quarter-final tie at Hougang Stadium on Friday night.
Further strikes from Pablo Rodriguez and Fairoz Hasan rendered Atuheire Kipson’s successful penalty conversion immaterial as Hougang will take a comfortable three-goal cushion going into the return leg on Monday.
The hosts could have gotten off to the perfect start after only two minutes but Atsushi Shirota headed narrowly wide off compatriot Kogure’s freekick at the far post.
Not to be outdone, Nagaworld’s Sos Suhana forced Hougang custodian Khairulhin Khalid to push away his low shot away to safety at the other end in the fourth minute.
Skipper on the night, Kogure curled a freekick over on ten minutes but there was no denying the Cheetahs as they broke the deadlock five minutes later.
Fairoz Hasan picked out the run of Nazrul Nazari with a reverse pass and the latter squared for an unmarked Kogure to flick home from close range.
Nagaworld tried to muster a response after going behind, but efforts from Kouch Dani and Sary Matnorotin were unable to trouble Khairulhin.
Suhana came even closer for Meas Channa’s side just after the half-hour mark, but the midfielder could only poke straight at Khairulhin under pressure.
Pablo Rodriguez saw his shot deflected behind the corner in the 38th minute but Kogure would double Hougang’s lead five minutes before the break.
After he was afforded all the time and space in the world, the former Albirex Niigata (S) man then unleashed a powerful shot which nestled into Samreth Seiha’s bottom corner.
Nagaworld came out of the break determined to find a way back into the game and duly pulled one back in the 54th minute as Kipson made no mistake from the spot after Soung Virak was tripped in the box by Ali Hudzaifi.
Kipson could have levelled matters in the 62nd minute but his backheel off George Kelechi was too weak to test Khairulhin.
They were made to rue that miss nine minutes later as Rodriguez made it 3-1, tapping home the rebound after Kogure’s freekick was parried into his path by Seiha.
Hougang continued to threaten and Fairoz sealed victory for the Cheetahs four minutes from time, latching onto a pass from substitute Faiz Salleh before finishing low into Seiha’s far corner.
The second leg is scheduled for Monday, 14 August at Jalan Besar Stadium with the winners facing Global Cebu FC who overcame Boeung Ket FC in the other quarter-final.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “In general, I thought we controlled the game well and created good chances. We also nullified the threat of their two foreign strikers (George Kelechi and Atuheire Kipson). We didn’t give away too much of the ball and defended and attacked well. I was happy with the fourth goal, as it was something we worked on in training and paid off.
“It was a good shift from our three foreigners today. Fumiya scored two goals today and he turned it on today. Pablo scored again as he worked very hard while Atsushi Shirota was rock at the back.
“What was disappointing was that we conceded; from an attacking corner and we conceded a penalty the next moment. That should not have happened as we gave our opponents a confidence boost, but thankfully we got the third goal which sealed things and calmed the nerves.”
Nagaworld FC Head Coach Meas Channa: “Even though we lost, I was happy with the team’s performance as they put in good shifts. We were able to keep possession of the ball and I thought we were unlucky not to have scored with the chances we had in the game.
“We didn’t expect that their no. 9 (Pablo Rodriguez) would start today and we were surprised. He caused a lot of problems with his height as Hougang kept pumping high balls at us. We played well but Hougang were still the better team today.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Wahyudi Wahid, Atsushi Shirota, Delwinder Singh, Ali Hudzaifi (Faiz Salleh 82’), Fabian Kwok (Afiq Noor 89’), Syahiran Miswan, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 86’), Pablo Rodriguez, Fumiya Kogure (C)
Nagaworld FC: Samreth Seiha (GK), Nhim Sovannara, Sary Matnorotin (Leng Makara 71’), Kouch Sokumpheak (C), Soung Virak (Prak Chanratana 71’), Sos Suhana (Thorn Darapich 81’), Atuheire Kipson, Kento Fujihara, Ngoy Srin, George Kelechi, Kouch Dani