Hougang United FC slumped to the bottom of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) table after suffering a 3-1 loss to Geylang International FC on Saturday evening.
Shawal Anuar netted a pair of headers and Azhar Sairudin scored against his former employers at Hougang Stadium as the visitors won their first league match of the season, while extending their opponents’ win-less streak.
To rub salt into Hougang Head Coach Philippe Aw’s wounds, three of his former players played a starring role at their old stomping ground.
Fumiya Kogure started the move for Shawal’s opener, before Fairoz Hasan teed up Shawal for the second.
Azhar then netted the third for the Eagles, before the Cheetahs grabbed a late consolation through Iqbal Hussain in a game that was played out in front of two sets of boisterous fans in the Hougang HOOLs and Ultra Eagles.
The deadlock was broken after just two minutes on the clock, with Geylang repeating what they did in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Young Lions by scoring early.
Kogure’s clever lofted pass into the area found winger Ryson Yap, who cut inside his man before crossing for Shawal to head home from close range.
The home side were then largely on top for the remainder of the first half, but failed to put their chances away – just like in previous matches.
Amir Zalani fluffed his lines right in front of goal on 19 minutes, after Shahfiq Ghani had hooked the ball into the area.
Shahfiq then headed wide from two yards out in the 32nd minute after Geylang custodian Zainol Gulam had parried Syahiran Miswan’s inswinging corner.
Iqbal was the next culprit five minutes later, as he nodded over from Nazrul Nazari’s right-wing cross.
The Cheetahs were made to pay for their profligacy as Hirotaka Usui’s men doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time and against the run of play.
Left unchecked on the right, Fairoz produced an inch-perfect cross from the right for Shawal to smartly head in past Khairulhin Khalid.
Hougang came out of the second half with all guns blazing but were unable to test Geylang custodian Basil Chan, who replaced the injured Zainol at half-time.
Muhaimin Suhaimi contrived to shoot wide with only Chan to beat on 52 minutes, before substitute Fareez Farhan blazed a speculative free-kick over from just outside the area 17 minutes later.
Geylang duly delivered the killer goal on 75 minutes through substitute Azhar, who conjured a sumptuous first-time finish on his left foot to convert Fuad Ramli’s cut-back.
Hougang would finally score three minutes from time, with Iqbal thumping into the top right corner from the edge of the box after being teed up by Nazrul Nazari.
However, it was too little, too late for the Cheetahs as they dropped to the bottom of the table.
Hougang will host Young Lions at the same venue next Saturday, while Geylang face off against Warriors FC at the National Stadium the following evening.
Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin: “It’s not that we played badly, we dominated most of the game and initiated most of the attacks. But Geylang came with a game-plan, which is to counter attack and that’s how they got two of their goals.
“Knowing Azhar, he’s a smart player and he will do things that others can’t do – like that cheeky finish past me. From my point of view, it’s a good goal.
“We have a young team at Hougang, with around half of the 25 players being Under-23 players. Defensively, the pair of Adam (Mitter) and Illyas Lee was a bit shaky and things are improving in terms of the communication. Now we have to regroup and try to go for the first win in the first game of the second round next Saturday.”
Geylang forward Shawal: “I’m very happy for myself to be back amongst the goals because it’s very important for me to keep the momentum going and that’s what Coach emphasised on. I have to thank my team-mates for the supply. There’s no secret to scoring headers; I just happen to be there and I know the space to run towards.
“I’m also happy for (Fu)Miya, Fairoz and Azhar, they worked really hard for us against their former club. This first win is very important for us and it happened because we put all our hearts to play and get this result.”
Hougang: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Illyas Lee, Adam Mitter (Ashrul Syafeeq 46’), Faiz Salleh, Syahiran Miswan, Fabian Kwok (C), Muhaimin Suhaimi, Shahfiq Ghani (Stanely Ng 78’), Amir Zalani (Fareez Farhan 46’), Iqbal Hussain.
Unused subs: Zulfairuuz Rudy (GK), Justin Hui, Daniel Goh, Jordan Vestering.
Geylang: Zainol Gulam (GK) (Basil Chan 46’), Darren Teh, Jufri Taha, Danish Irfan, Ryan Syaffiq, Yuki Ichikawa (C) (Azhar Sairudin 53’), Fuad Ramli, Ryson Yap (Cameron Aryton Bell 80’), Fumiya Kogure, Fairoz Hasan, Shawal Anuar.
Unused subs: Yeo Hai Ngee, Sadiq Abdul Rahim, Noor Ariff, Ahmad Zaki.
Photo Credit: Football Association of Singapore