The third round of the 2015 S.League competition has begun for Hougang United in the same manner as the second round – with a defeat to Home United. This time though, the match was not a one-sided thrashing but a tightly contested affair with just one goal to separate the two sides.
The game had appeared to be heading in the direction of a goalless draw when an uncharacteristic mistake from captain Nurhilmi Jasni gave the Protectors a penalty kick in the 63rd minute of the game. Ken Ilso duly delivered from the spotkick to extend his side’s unbeaten run to 10 games. Including injury time, Home United has now gone over 400 minutes in all competitions without conceding a goal.
The Line Ups
There were no changes to Hougang United’s starting line-up from the side that drew 1:1 with Albirex Niigata (S) twenty days prior. Among the substitutes on the bench though was Faiz Salleh, who had been sidelined for the team’s previous 13 games due to injury. His last match was the 4:0 loss to Home United at the start of the second round in mid-May.
Home United likewise had Noh Rahman sitting on the bench for the first time since he was injured back in March. The veteran defender has missed 18 games for the Protectors with Prime League centreback Rajandran Aaravin filling in for his absence. With Aaravin now facing an injury himself, head coach Phillipe Aw elected to field another Prime League player Shahrin Saberin to partner Abdil Qaiyyim in defence instead of rushing Noh Rahman back into action.
There were no such concerns for defensive midfielder Song Ui Young, who made his first start for the side in two months after missing seven games through injury. Left back Sirina Camara was suspended for this game while wide midfielder Ambroise Begue was a surprise omission from the starting line-up with his replacement, Imran Sahib, starting only his second game for the Protectors and his first since early April.
The game’s first shot at goal came early in the 2nd minute when a cut back cross from Azhar Sairudin found an unmarked Song at the edge of the penalty box. The Korean’s shot was headed away by Kunihiro Yamashita for a corner that came to nothing.
The Cheetahs had their first shot in the 10th minute when a pin point cross delivered by Vuk Sotirovic found Nurhilmi inside the box. The ensuing header was safely collected by Home United’s custodian Shahril Jantan. Vuk then tried two long distance strikes in the subsequent minute – one in open play that went wide and the other from a free kick that was saved. That free kick was a result of Nurhilmi receiving a high boot to his face. No card was produced for that foul despite the visible marks on his face.
After receiving treatment, Nurhilmi was able to resume playing but the same could not be said for Fairoz Hasan. After enduring an awkward fall, he was stretchered off to the sidelines for treatment. He gamely returned to the field but was back on the ground within seconds, signalling to the bench that he was unable to continue. Forced to make an early substitution after just 20 minutes, Salim Moin opted to replace Fairoz with Fareez Farhan.
Ridhuan Barudin performed admirably to deny Home United from breaking the deadlock. At the 24th minute mark, he parried a low shot from Ilso after the striker had received a lob through ball from Song. Four minutes later, Ridhuan made a vital interception to deny Azhar the ball after the latter had played a one-two with Ilso.
Hougang United had struck the side netting five minutes before the interval – and they did so again five minutes after the resumption of play. The former was a low shot from Sotirovic after the Serbian had shook off his marker Juma’at Jantan inside the 18 yard box. The latter was a half-volley by Diego Gama at the end of a short lob from Nurhilmi.
Those narrow misses were soon rued when the referee awarded Home United a penalty kick in the 63rd minute. Ken Ilso had received a long ball in a dangerous area but with Kunihiro and Tengku Mushahdad closely providing cover and Ilso facing away from goal, there was little need for Nurhilmi to put his right foot in and the harsh consequence of tripping Ilso was quickly felt when the Dane scored from the resulting spot kick. His shot to the left was just beyond the reach of Ridhuan, who had dove the correct way.
The Cheetahs unsurprisingly piled on the pressure thereafter with Kunihiro moving up the field to bolster the attack while Salim brought on Fazli Jaffar and Taufiq Ghani to replace Carlos Delgado and Fareez respectively. The changes made no difference to the outcome of the game as the Protectors held steady with Shahril making two saves to deny Sotirovic – the first from a long distance direct free kick shot and the second an impressive reflective save with his knees in the 77th minute.
Hougang United will next play Geylang International on the 25th of September, Friday, at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Delwinder Singh, Tengku Mushadad, Kunihiro Yamashita, Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado (Fazli Jaffar 72′), Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 20′, Taufiq Ghani 84′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic
Home United: Shahril Jantan, Ang Zhiwei, Abdil Qaiyyim, Shahrin Saberin, Juma’at Jantan (C), Imran Sahib (Ambroise Begue 55′), Yasir Hanapi, Song Uiyong, Azhar Sairudin (Stanely Ng 78′), Kamel Ramdani, Ken Ilso