Hougang United returned to Singapore with all three points after defeating Harimau Muda 0:1 at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melacca on Wednesday night. Vuk Sotirovic’s goal midway in the first half proved decisive as the Cheetah earned their first win over the Young Tigers in four attempts.
The match was not without controversy as Harimau Muda claimed two penalties, both denied by the referee. Additionally, an unsavory streak lived on as the red card was brandished for the fifth game in a row between the two sides – only this time, it was not just one but three different players who were sent off, one from the visitors and two from the hosts.
The Cheetahs have now gained ten points from a possible eighteen since the resumption of the S.League following the mid-season break. This win, their second in three games, lifted them into seventh place, overtaking the Young Tigers, who still have four games in hand.
The Line Ups
Salim Moin made two changes to his starting eleven with Delwinder Singh and Fazli Jaffar stepping aside for Lau Meng Meng and Fairoz Hasan respectively. Neither player had started for Hougang United since their involvement in the League Cup competition in early July though they have appeared as substitutes since. Fairoz, one of only two players who have featured in every game this season – the other being Nurhilmi Jasni – was starting his 12th game for the Cheetahs while the veteran left back Lau was starting his 11th game.
Harimau Muda made numerous changes to the line-up with only four players retained from their previous. Five players were also starting their first game since the mid-season break: Wan Ahmad Amirzafran, Kumaahran Sathasivan, Nazirul Naim, Kenny Pallraj, and goalkeeper Ramdhan Hamid. Of this quintet, only Kenny Pallraj had seen any action as a substitute since the resumption of the league. This game also represented an opportunity for Ramdhan to make amends for his side given that his last competitive action in the Harimau Muda jersey got him sent off early in the 3:3 draw with Hougang United back in April.
With the hosts dominating possession in the early period of the game, Ridhuan Barudin was called to action and performed admirably. At the 9th minute mark, he parried away a close range header by Adam Nor following a cross from the right by Syazwan Andik. A long range strike from Shahrul Igwan in the 21st minute was then tipped over by the Cheetahs’ custodian.
Three minutes later, Hougang United scored against the run of play. A long ball forward by Tengku Mushahdad found Nurhilmi on the right. The captain passed the ball back to an unmarked Faizal Amir who delivered a perfect cross for Vuk to score with a one touch volley. This was the Serbian forward’s fifth goal in seven games for Hougang United.
At the half hour mark, a through ball found Kumaahran clear but a timely interception from Ridhuan cleared the ball – but only as far as Nazirul, whose rebound effort was denied by a quick movement of the goalkeeper’s feet. The Harimau Muda bench felt the initial interception was a foul but the referee thought otherwise.
In the 37th minute, a swift counter attack by the Cheetahs saw Nurhilmi pulling a cut back cross from near the touchline to an unmarked Vuk at the edge of the box but the latter’s effort was just marginally wide of the near post.
The Young Tigers had the first chance after the break just as they had in the first half. This time, it was a corner delivered by their top scorer Faizat Ghazali. Centreback Wan Ahmad got to the ball ahead of Ridhuan but his header was wide.
A poor back pass by Nazirul then gifted Diego Gama the ball in the 62nd minute but under pressure from Wan Ahmad, the Brazilian’s effort was just wide of goal. He had another opportunity moments later after receiving a near pass from Vuk but this time his shot went straight to Ramdhan. It would not have counted in any case as the linesman had flagged for offside.
Faizal Amir was dismissed from the game in the 74th minute. A heavy touch from the right back gave the ball to Wan Ahmad and in an attempt to recover possession, Faizal’s heavy challenge resulted in his second yellow card. His first caution had came 16 minutes earlier for a sliding challenge. After 22 games in all competition, Hougang United had their first red card for the season.
Moments later, a long through ball from Adam found Faizat unmarked and onside. Before he could shoot, Nurhilmi swept the ball out from under him. Cue another penalty shout from the hosts but like before, the referee had seen nothing wrong.
The game then descended into farce as the Young Tigers lost control and had two players sent off in the span of just four minutes. A free kick awarded to the Cheetahs in the 80th minute saw an uninvolved Faizat Ghazali needlessly protesting the decision by physically confronting the referee, a move that earned him a red card. Four minutes later, Wan Ahmad delivered a high challenge with his studs on substitute Fareez Farhan’s chest. A similar confrontation on the referee ensued and again the red card followed. In nine minutes, Harimau Muda had contrived to turn a one man advantage into a one man disadvantage.
The foul from Wan Ahmad meant that Fareez Farhan had to be substituted off for Taufiq Ghani. It was the visitors’ last substitution of the game after they had earlier replaced Tengku for Delwinder and Fareez for Fairoz.
Hougang United will next face Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium on the 28th of August 2015.
Harimau Muda: Ramdhan Hamid, Kenny Pallraj, Syawal Nordin, Wan Ahmad Zafran, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (C), Syazwan Andik (Syahrul Azwari 64′), Adam Nor Azlin, Irfan Zakaria, Shahrul Igwan, S. Kumaahran (Arif Anwar 73′), Faizat Ghazali
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin, Faizal Amir, Kunihiro Yamashita, Tengku Mushadad (Delwinder Singh 46′), Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 61′, Taufiq Ghani 86′), Diego Gama, Vuk Sotirovic
Video Credit: S.League