The bogey team was no more as Hougang United secured their third win of the season and their second in the 2015 S.League competition after defeating Courts Young Lions 1:3 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday night. This was the Cheetahs’ first win over the Young Lions in six games as they ended an uneviable streak of bad results stretching back two years against the development side.
The Argentinian Carlos Delgado was undoubtedly the man of the match with his two assists. He nearly provided a third too. Goals came from Delwinder Singh and Kunihiro Yamashita in set pieces before Fairoz Hasan added a third late in injury time. For the Young Lions, goalscorer Adam Swandi was their most valuable player as he sparkled in an otherwise dismal showing from his side.
After an unconventional 5:3:1:1 formation in the team’s previous game against Balestier Khalsa, Hougang United head Coach Salim Moin reverted back to a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation. Delwinder, back from an injury that had kept him out of the side for two matches, was fielded alongside Yamashita, Tengku Mushahdad and Yuki Uchiyama in front of Ridhuan Barudin in goal. This was the same backline that had impressed in last month’s 1:0 win over Brunei DPMM.
In midfield, Fazli Jaffar operated on the left with captain Nurhilmi Jasni on the right as they sandwiched Atsushi Shimono and Carlos in the middle. After providing a goal and an assist against Balestier, Fareez Farhan deservedly retained his starting role and was partnered upfront with Diego Gama.
For the Young Lions, the Canadian duo Jordan Webb and Sherif-El Masri made their long awaited return after sitting out from competitive football since last November. This was Juergen Raab’s first game in charge of the side after taking over from Aide Iskandar.
After a quiet opening spell, the game burst to life at the 10th minute mark when Fareez won a free kick close to the left touchline. From Carlos’ delivery, Delwinder rose above Sheikh Abdul Hadi to head the ball into the net. Ten minutes later, another free kick – this time won by Nurhilmi close to the right touchline – saw Carlos providing another perfect cross from
which Yamashita scoring with a header. In between the two goals, Carlos had also crossed the ball in open play to Diego but the latter’s volley was parried away by a diving Syazwan Buhari.
During this frantic period, the Young Lions came close to scoring twice as well. In the 17th minute mark, Adam evaded Delwinder with a feint and moved into an unmarked position. His shot was deflected by Yamashita past the six yard line. A sprinting Amy Recha was unable to get hold of the ball and within a fraction of a section, Uchiyama cleared the ball away.
Four minutes later, just after Hougang had doubled their lead, Adam released a through ball to Amy that bypassed the Cheetahs’ defence. Amy’s pass found Jordan Webb near the six yard line. A simple tap in was all that was required for a goal but instead the ball was inexplicably blasted high above the crossbar.
The Young Lions dominated possession thereafter but was unable to penetrated past Hougang United’s defence. The remaining close chance in the second half belonged to the Cheetahs. In the 38th minute, a cross from Uchiyama found Diego at the edge of the box. The ball was chested down for Fareez but his volley was shot too high.
Hougang United came close to adding another goal in the 56th minute. Nurhilmi had broke clear on the right before passing to Fareez along the twelve yard line. With a quality turn, his back initially facing goal, Fareez controlled the ball, bringing it down to the ground before laying a short pass to Diego with the outsole of his left boot. The Brazilian was unmarked but his shot was too powerful and went sailing over the crossbar.
At the other end, Ridhuan was kept busy and in the space of seven minutes, he tangled thrice with Adam Swandi. In the 63rd minute, an unmarked Adam was denied the ball by a vital interception from the goalkeeper. A minute later, Ridhuan had to rush out of the box to head the ball away after a long delivery had gone flying over the entire Hougang defence. Adam was shown a yellow card for clattering into the goalkeeper but seven minutes later, he pulled a goal back for his side with an impressive solo effort. After sprinting ahead of Nurhilmi and feinting Uchiyama into the wrong direction, his right footed shot curled beyond the reach of Ridhuan.
Hougang United were treading on dangerous waters as the clock wound down. In the 88th minute, a long ball from Anumanthan was headed backwards into the penalty box by Tengku. Suria struck a right footed volley to deny Ridhuan the ball before delivering a tame shot towards goal. Yamashita made a crucial clearance two yards from the touchline to deny the Young Lions the equalizer.
Against the run of play, Hougang United scored their third goal in the third minute of injury time with the active and passive contributions of their three substitutes. Taufiq Ghani kicked the ball past a clearly offside Muyahmin Salim. The Young Lions defenders were complacent in presuming the linesman would raise his flag but Muhayamin was wise enough to avoid touching the ball, stopping dead in his track to allow an onside Fairoz Hasan to get a hold of it instead. Fairoz confidently rounded past Syazwan and slotted the ball into the net to secure the win for the Cheetahs.
With this result, Hougang United moved six points clear of the Young Lions. They remain in 9th position behind Harimau Muda on goal difference. The Cheetahs will next play Tampines Rovers on the 24th of July, Friday, at Hougang Stadium.
Courts Young Lions: Syazwan Buhari (C), Fadli Kamis, Amirul Adli, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Farhan Rahmat (Faris Azienuddin 73’), M Anumanthan, Afiq Noor (Suria Prakash 66’), Jordan Webb, Sherif El-Masri (Shameer Aziq 66’), Amy Recha, Adam Swandi
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Delwinder Singh, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushahdad, Yuki Uchiyama, Fazli Jaffar, Atsushi Shimono, Carlos Delgado, Nurhilmi Jasni (C) (Taufiq Ghani 90’), Fareez Farhan (Muhaymin Salim 72’), Diego Gama (Fairoz Hasan 64’)
Video credit: S.League