After a recent revival in form, Hougang United was brought back down to earth on Friday night by a 0:3 loss at the hands of Tampines Rovers, who ended their recent bad run of results with a resounding thump. For most of the game, the Cheetahs’ defence had held sturdy but ultimately for nought as they fell apart in the second half to concede thrice in the space of 13 minutes at Hougang Stadium.
Mateo Roskam was the Stags’ man of the match with two goals at either end of a penalty kick converted by captain Fahrudin Mustafic. The brace meant that Mateo has now taken over Rodrigo Tosi as his side’s leading scorer with five goals to the Brazilian’s four.
This was Hougang United’s first failure to find the net in eight games since their 4:0 loss to Home United in mid-May. That was the last of their ten games winless streak and they had only lost twice in seven games since. Now they have lost twice in three games. How quickly the perspective can shift.
For only the second time this season, the Cheetahs made no changes to their starting line-up from their previous game. The eleven players that kicked off the 1:3 win over the Young Lions on Monday night had only three days to recover while their opponents had enjoyed a nineteen days break.
With Serbian striker Vuk Sotirovic still recovering from an injury sustained in the League Cup competition, Fareez Farhan partnered Diego Gama upfront again. The duo has now played two games together without either finding the net.
As for Tampines Rovers, Ismail Yunos was given his first start this year after previously making four substitute appearances. Ridhuan Muhamad, who had came off the bench four times since his last start in early April, was also handed a position in the first eleven. As expected, the starting line-up also included the two new signings in the mid-season transfer window, Brazilian goalkeeper Rodrigo Pachecho and former LionsXII captain Isa Halim, both of whom were featuring in only their second game for the Stags.
The closest either team got to scoring in the first half came in the 11th minute when Roberto Alviz smashed the crossbar with a long range strike. The ball rebounded to Firdaus Idros whose cross went over Ridhuan Barudin and towards Mateo near the six yard line but the latter’s header sent the ball floating high over the bar.
Less than 60 seconds later, at the other end of the field, the referee adjudged that Pachecho had handled the ball just outside the box. The goalkeeper quickly made amends by saving the resulting free kick shot from Diego.
The Cheetahs had their best chance of the game in the 19th minute after some eye catching teamwork as Diego dummied Carlos Delgado’s pass for Fareez to flick the ball to Fazli Jaffar on the left. The latter’s shot was wide but the build up play was Hougang United’s most impressive display in a game that their opponents subsequently dominated.
With their defenders still holding sturdy at either end, both sides soon resorted to a number of long balls after the interval. At one point, Tampines Rovers even tried a long throw in. In the 57th minute, Ridhuan Barudin had to rush out of his box to clear away a long punt from his opposite number that almost found Mateo. Both the striker and his head coach Sundramoorthy evidently thought a foul had been committed by Hougang’s custodian but referee Farhad Mohd saw otherwise.
Tampines Rovers then broke the deadlock in the 66th minute when Ridhuan Muhammad delivered a cross that found Mateo. Ridhuan had provided a similar cross to a tightly marked Rodrigo in the first half but the ensuing header had gone wide. Mateo though had space between the two centrebacks and at close range, he made no mistake with his header.
Just six minutes later, a chaotic melee in a crowded box prompted the referee to blow the whistle after he spotted a handball. From the awarded penalty kick, Fahrudin doubled Tampines’ lead. The game was effectively over in the 80th minute when Mateo scored his team’s third goal after receiving a pass from Roberto Alviz.
Hougang United will be looking to rebound from this loss when they next travel to Bandar Seri Begawan to face Brunei DPMM on Wednesday, the 29th of July.
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Yuki Uchiyama, Tengku Mushadad, Kunihiro Yamashita, Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C) (Goh Swee Swee 83′), Atsushi Shimono, Carlos Delgado, Fazli Jaffar, Diego Gama (Fairoz Hasan 69′), Fareez Farhan (Lau Meng Meng 83′)
Tampines Rovers: Rodrigo Pacheco, Ismail Yunos (Jufri Taha 86′), Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Predrag Pocuca, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Ridhuan Muhammad (Ismadi Mukhtar 68′), Isa Halim, Roberto Alviz, Firdaus Idros, Mateo Roskam (Indra Sahdan 84′), Rodrigo Tosi
Video credit: S.League