Written by: Ryan Low
A Fabian Kwok stunner five minutes from time salvaged a 2-2 draw for Hougang United against Philippines invitee Global Cebu in the first leg of the RHB Singapore Cup semi-final tie at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night.
It looked like Global would run out winners after Darryl Roberts scored twice to cancel out Delwinder Singh’s opener, but Kwok’s late intervention meant the tie is finely poised going into Saturday’s second leg at Hougang Stadium.
Hougang could have gone a goal down on 18 minutes, but goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid did well to close down Dennis Villaneuva in the box.
The 26-year-old was at it again nine minutes later to deny Roberts after the latter was put through on goal by Paolo Salenga’s cross.
The Cheetahs then countered straightaway with Fareez Farhan’s header from Fumiya Kogure’s cross bringing out an acrobatic save from Global keeper Patrick Deyto.
From the resulting corner, Zulfahmi Arifin found Delwinder at the back post and the latter glanced home to put Hougang 1-0 up on 28 minutes.
However, Global would hit right back five minutes later. Roberts strode into Salenga’s through ball before finishing inside Khairulhin’s near post to restore parity.
Hougang could have retaken the lead early in the second half when Kogure exchanged passes well with Nazrul Nazari in the box, but the skipper fired well wide with his weaker left foot.
Global would duly go 2-1 up in the 68th minute, with Roberts bundling home the rebound after his earlier header off a right-wing across was parried by Khairulhin.
Hougang head coach Phillipe Aw then threw on Nurhilmi Jasni and towering Spanish forward Pablo Rodriguez for the final 15 minutes, with the duo creating much problems for the Global defence.
The Cheetahs’ pressure paid off on 85 minutes, with Kwok lashing home a superb left-footed drive from the edge of the box after the Global backline failed to clear their lines from a Zulfahmi cross.
It was a grandstand finish to the game, with both sides spurning chances to win the game.
For Hougang, Kogure poked wide from Nurhilmi’s cross before Rodriguez headed over from Nazrul’s cross.
Global had the last chance of the game deep into injury time when Paul Mulders put Villanueva through on goal, but the latter somehow fired off target.
It eventually finished 2-2 with both sides facing off again three nights later.
Global Cebu Head Coach Akbar Nawas: “No, I’m not happy with the result. We had the chances to bring a better lead into the second leg, but we didn’t. We only had 13 players available, but I didn’t want to make excuses. If I felt sore, the feeling will seep into the players.
“I take this very seriously, I want to be in the final again (after leading Tampines Rovers to last year’s final). I want to be the first Singaporean coach to lead a Philippines team into the final of the Singapore Cup, so there is history to be made.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “It’s disappointing that we didn’t take the lead back to Hougang Stadium. We didn’t stick to the game plan, we conceded goals. Both goals came from our attacking situations, we’ve worked on it but we still conceded two.
“Based on this game, I feel that we can win the second leg if we stick to our game plan. For Hougang who have not achieved a trophy before, the pressure is there and we need to learn to cope with it.”
Global Cebu: Patrick Deyto (GK, C), Serge Kaole, Paul Mulders, Dennis Villanueva, Paolo Bugas (Marvin Bricenio 71’), Jerry Barbaso, Hikaru Minegishi, Darryl Roberts, Paolo Salenga, Marco Casambre, Wesley Dos Santos
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Lionel Tan, Atsushi Shirota, Delwinder Singh, Nazrul Nazari, Zulfahmi Arifin, Fabian Kwok, Faiz Salleh, Fareez Farhan (Nurhilmi Jasni 75’), Iqbal Hussain (Pablo Rodriguez 82’), Fumiya Kogure (C)