Hougang United fought back from two goals down to pull off an unlikely last minute draw against Geylang International on Saturday night in the 2015 The New Paper League Cup competition. Brazilian forward Diego Gama was the saviour for the Cheetahs as his brace cancelled out earlier goals from Jozef Kaplan and Bruno Castanheira.
Hougang’s head coach Salim Moin and assistant coach Nor Azli were both suspended for this match after an argument with the referee in the closing minutes of their previous game against Brunei DPMM. The club’s technical advisors Amin Nasir and Akihiro Nakamura were called on to help as temporary stand-ins.
For the first time this season, Hougang United had started a match without a change to their line-up but while the starting eleven had impressed in their 1:0 win over Brunei DPMM, they appeared toothless for most of the match against Geylang International. It was not until their third and final substitution of the game in the 69th minute that Hougang United finally found their momentum.
Geylang had always looked like the side that would score first. A corner in the 12th minute saw Kento Fukuda getting to the ball ahead of Hougang’s goalkeeper, Ridhuan Barudin, but his shot was cleared from the near goal line by Atshushi Shimono. In the 20th minute, a through ball from Hafiz Nor saw Tatsuro Inui breaking free of Hougang United’s offside line but his shot was tame and went straight to the goalkeeper.
The deadlock was broken two minutes later when Bruno Castanheira evaded two markers and passed the ball to Jozef Kaplan. The Slovak’s first shot at close range was blocked by Ridhuan but he made no mistake with the rebound. Less than a minute later, Jozef came close to doubling Geylang’s lead when a swift counter attack resulted in his shot hitting the far post. This time, the rebound found its way to Hafiz Nor who laid the ball for Bruno but the latter’s shot went inches above the crossbar.
In the meanwhile, Hougang had yet to get a solitary shot at goal and the rest of the first half was little better. Two changes were made in the interval with Faizal Amir and Fazli Jaffar replacing Delwinder Singh and Fareez Farhan respectively. The resumption of the game saw Hougang United more lively with Kenneth Chang and Fairoz Hasan both pulling off shots that required the intervention of Geylang International’s goalkeeper, Yazid Yasin.
At the other end, Inui impressed with a dazzling run into Hougang United’s penalty box but his shot went wide. Fast forward a few minutes, Inui repeated his dribble into the box and this time he delivered a cross from the touchline that was met by Bruno, whose header at point blank range resulted in a two goals lead for the Eagles.
After the introduction of captain Nurhilmi Jasni in the 69th minute, Hougang seized control of the match. In the space of three minutes, Vuk Sotirovic, Faizal Amir and Nurhilmi Jasni each had a shot at goal but while Sotirovic’s shot was saved by Yazid, the other two saw their shots wide off the mark.
The late game pressure paid off in the 84th minute when Hougang pulled a goal back. A fumble from Yazid after a long ball from Carlos Delgado saw Diego Gama latching onto the loose ball before slotting it home.
In the third and last minute of injury time, Hougang United won a corner which Sotirovic delivered to Nurhilmi. His header in turn was flicked goalwards by Diego Gama. In the space of 10 minutes, Hougang United had overturned a two goals deficit to draw level with Geylang International. The referee blew the final whistle mere seconds later.
With four points each, both teams are now in a prime position to progress to the next stage of the League Cup competition. Geylang International tops the table by goal difference and will face Brunei DPMM in their final group game at Jalan Besar Stadium on the 2nd of July while Hougang United meet Singapore Recreation Club on the same day at Hougang Stadium.
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Yuki Uchiyama, Kenneth Chang, Tengku Mushadad, Delwinder Singh (Faizal Amir 46′), Fairoz Hasan (C) (Nurhilmi Jasni 64′), Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fareez Farhan (Fazli Jaafar 46′), Vuk Sotirovic, Diego Gama.
Geylang International: Yazid Yasin (GK), Yuki Ichikawa, Hafiz Osman, Kento Fukuda, Syed Thaha (Anaz Hadee 83′), Nor Azli Yusoff, Khairulnizam Jumahat (Shah Hirul 60′), Tatsuro Inui, Jozef Kaplan (C), Hafiz Nor (Shawal Anuar 87′), Bruno Castanheira.