Hougang United won by their largest margin of victory for the year as they defeated Warriors F.C. at Hougang Stadium on Tuesday night in the S.League competition. The result saw the Cheetahs moving ahead of the Young Lions and Geylang International into 8th place while Warriors were denied their opportunity to regain the top position from Albirex Niigata (S).
The game took a surprising turn early on when Marin Vidosevic was shown a red card after just three and a half minutes of play for using abusive language towards the referee. It is the sort of misdemeanor that a professional player should know better than to commit. The shocking lapse in indiscipline effectively cost Warriors the game though it did not initially appeared to be the case when Fazrul Nawaz equalized to bring the teams back on level terms following Kunihiro Yamashita’s opener.
The one man disadvantage eventually took its toll on the Warriors as the Cheetahs ran riot in the second half with Vuk Sotirovic scoring a brace before Diego Gama settled the contest with a decisive penalty kick.
There were no changes to Hougang United’s starting eleven with head coach Salim Moin electing to field the same side that secured an away draw with Brunei DPMM the previous week. Taufiq Ghani started his second match for the Cheetahs in the continued absence of Atsushi Shimono on compassionate grounds.
The squad was markedly different from the side that lost 1:0 to Warriors earlier in the season at Woodlands Stadium. Of the 11 players that started that match, only 4 started in this one – goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin, the Japanese defenders Yamashita and Yuki Uchiyama, and captain Nurhilmi Jasni.
As for Warriors, the crowd at Hougang Stadium were denied a chance to watch their formidable attacking trio of Fazrul Nawaz, Nicholas Velez and Miroslav Pejic in action. Evidently still recovering from an injury, Pejic started on the bench while Velez, bound for the Indian Super League, was not in the line-up at all. The Argentinian’s replacement, Karlo Ivancic, was largely anonymous in this game though whether that would have been the case with parity in numbers can only be speculated.
The deadlock was broken early in the 11th minute after a cross from Uchiyama was flicked by Nurhilmi’s back heel onto Yamashita’s path. The Japanese centreback’s previous four goals for the Cheetahs had all been headers from set pieces but here, he scored with a low shot delivered by his right foot in open play.
The lead was nearly wiped off just five minutes later when a free kick taken by Hafiz Rahim was cleared away by Delwinder Singh. Irwan Shah collected the ball at some distance away and his long range effort bounced on the top netting.
Sotirovic then had a chance for Hougang United in the 18th minute with a fierce strike that was just wide off the near post. Eight minutes later, he had a shot intercepted by goalkeeper Daniel Ong. Fazli Jaffar got the rebound but his header was too high.
Warriors’ equalizer came in the 29th minute after Fazrul Nawaz played a through ball to Hafiz who laid on a pass for an unmarked Kevin McCann. Close to the six yard line, the Scot unleashed a short cross for Fazrul to tap in.
In an exhilarating first half, the Cheetahs came close to retaking the lead on a number of occasions. In the 31st minute, Gama struck the near post with a near distance shot and then two minutes later, Sotirovic lobbed the ball over Ong and into the net but the linesman at the far end ruled the goal out for offside. The two forwards then combined in the 44th minute with Gama delivering a thunderous header from Sotirovic’s cross. Ong was only able to palm the shot away for Gama to have another opportunity but his rebound effort struck the side netting.
Warriors returned to the field with a change as Hamqaamal Shah made way for Pejic. The Croatian forward had little impact on the game though and it was instead Sotirovic that provided the crucial difference between the two sides when he scored a brace within a quarter hour period.
The lead was regained in the 63rd minute following a long through pass by Carlos from within Hougang United’s half. Sotirovic twisted and turned to shake off his marker, Daniel Bennett, before unleashing a left footed strike that found the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the penalty box.
Following the goal, the Cheetahs made their first change of the game, replacing Fazli Jaffar with Fareez Farhan. The substitution proved inspired as Fareez took a corner in the 78th minute and delivered a cross that was headed by Delwinder Singh towards Sotirovic. The latter made no mistakes with his own goal-bound header.
In the 86th minute, a breakaway counter attack with another inspired through ball from Carlos ended only after Gama was brought down by Andy Ahmad. The resulting penalty kick was taken by Gama himself and his shot was beyond Ong’s reach. The game was effectively over but there was still time for Hougang United to come close to adding a fifth when Fareez Farhan provided a perfect cross to an unmarked and onside Fairoz Hasan, whose saw his right footed volley parried away.
Hougang United will have just two days to recover before their next game against Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium on the 7th of August, Friday.
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Yuki Uchiyama, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Lau Meng Meng 82′), Delwinder Singh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Taufiq Ghani (Fairoz Hasan 80′), Fazli Jaffar (Fareez Farhan 67′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic
Warriors FC: Daniel Ong, Emmeric Ong (Andy Ahmad 85′), Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic, Irwan Shah, Syaqir Sulaiman, Kevin McCann, Karlo Ivancic, Hafiz Rahim (Shi Jiayi 72′), Hamqaamal Shah (Miroslav Pejic 46′), Fazrul Nawaz
Video credit: S.League