Hougang United walked away with a point from the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium after a 1:1 draw with Brunei DPMM on Wednesday. Mid-season signing Vuk Sotirovic secured the equalizer in the second half to cancel out Azwan Ali’s opener. This was the Serbian striker’s second goal in as many games against the Wasps – he had scored the winner in their League Cup encounter just 36 days ago.
The stalemate prevented Brunei DPMM from topping the table while Hougang United moved one point closer to Geylang International after the latter lost 2:0 to Tampines Rovers earlier in the same evening.
The result also saw the Cheetahs remaining the only team to have denied the competition’s current top scorer Rafael Ramazotti from finding the net. Despite an impressive tally of 15 goals in 15 matches thus far, 12 from 12 in the S.League, the Brazilian striker has now failed to score against Hougang United in three games.
Salim Moin made two changes to the starting line up that lost 0:3 to Tampines Rovers on Friday. After missing three games through injury, Sotirovic replaced Fareez Farhan upfront as Diego Gama’s strike partner while Taufiq Ghani came in the side for the absent Atsushi Shimono. The Japanese defensive midfielder had returned to his home country the previous day on compassionate grounds.
This was Taufiq’s first start of the season after three prior appearances as a substitutes, the first of which lasted for 120 minutes after coming on as an early substitute for an injured Shunsuke Nakatake in the Singapore Cup tie with Global F.C., a game that only ended in extra time. Coincidentally, it was that injury to Nakatake that saw his compatriot Shimono joining the side as a mid-season replacement.
Brunei DPMM’s Shahrazen Said was also making his first start of the season in place for the suspended Paulo Sergio, who had to sit out this match after accumulating his fourth yellow card in his team’s 1:1 draw against Young Lions on Sunday. Adi Said was another suspended player after receiving a straight red card in the same game. Centre-back Brian McLean made his return to the starting line-up after serving his own two match suspension.
Fittingly enough, the game’s two eventual goalscorers both had their team’s first shot at goal. Azwan needed only two minutes to produce a close range effort that rocked the crossbar while Sotirovic’s strike in the 12th minute went straight to Wardun Yussof.
Brunei DPMM’s attacking intent were clear as they dominated the early game. A header by McLean went mere inches wide of the post while sound positioning and quick interventions from Hougang United’s backline denied attempts from Shahrazen and Hendra Azam.
A timely block by Tengku Mushahdad to deny a shot from Azwan backfired spectacularly when the ball deflected off Kunihiro Yamashita and rebounded right back to Azwan. Switching to his left feet, Azwan’s follow-up drove past Ridhuan Barudin into the far post for the Wasps to take the lead in the 33rd minute of the game.
Two minutes later, Shahrazen made a sensational dribble to shake off two defenders and crossed the ball past another but Rafael’s sliding in attempt to tap the ball home saw the ball going over the crossbar instead.
The second half started in the same way as the first half with a near chance at goal from Brunei DPMM within two minutes from kick off. This time, a spectacular leap by Ridhuan tipped Hendra’s shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar. Minutes later, Azwan struck a deep cross to find an unmarked Shahrazen in the box but the latter could only hit the side netting with his attempt at goal.
The Wasps’ dominance meant that Hougang United had to defend for most of the game and it was from defending a set piece with ten men that the Cheetahs launched a swift counter attack that gave them the equalizer in the 69th minute. The goal was a team effort that started at the other end with a Brunei DPMM free kick taken by Joe Gamble. Yamashita headed the ball away but only as far as Rosmin Kamis. Delwinder Singh and Lau Meng Meng combined to retrieve the ball and clear it out of the box. Carlos Delgado then swept the ball wide to Fazli and the counter was truly on. A long ball upfield was intercepted by a header from Sairol Sahari back to Nurhilmi Jasni’s path. The captain rolled the ball forward to Sotirovic, who turned and struck a right footed low curler around Wardun.
The Wasps piled on the pressure thereafter but more solid defending from the Cheetahs – and another diving save from Ridhuan in the 89th minute to deny Azwan – saw the points split evenly at the final whistle.
The visitors will turn hosts when Hougang United next face Warriors F.C. at Hougang Stadium on the 4th of August.
Brunei DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Aminuddin Zakwan, Boris Raspudic, Brian McLean, Sairol Sahari, Hendra Azam (Yura Indera Putera 81′), Joseph Gamble, Rosmin Kamis (C), Azwan Ali, Shahrazen Said, Rafael Ramazotti
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Yuki Uchiyama, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Lau Meng Meng 66′), Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Taufiq Ghani, Fazli Jaffar (Fairoz Hasan 83′), Vuk Sotirovic, Diego Gama
Video credit: S.League