Warriors FC ended their worst-ever start to a season after beating Hougang United FC 2-0 at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Saturday night for their first win of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
Jonathan Behe struck twice in the dying embers of the match, which was enough to give the nine-time champions their first victory in 11 attempts.
But Hougang’s barren run in the league extended to nine games and they are just two matches away from equalling their poorest start to a season.
It was a quiet first half, with both sides struggling to carve out chances and little was on show in terms of goalmouth action.
Ho Wai Loon and Nur Luqman resorted to shots from distance, but their efforts lacked any real threat.
Muhaimin Suhaimi had a good chance to open the scoring after the ball fell for him in the danger area on the half-hour mark, but he failed to find the target. Behe then suffered the same fate at the other end.
The first real chance of the game finally arrived in the 37th minute with Behe allowed plenty of space in the box to strike a strong drive, but Khairulhin Khalid did well to deny him at the near post.
It continued to be a drab affair in the second half, with the main threats coming from set-pieces.
Efforts from Shahfiq Ghani, Sahil Suhaimi and Behe were all on target but again, lacked any real power.
As full time loomed, Sahil played a through ball to Behe but the striker was thwarted by a fine Khairulhin save in a one-on-one situation.
Poh Yi Feng then followed up with a nicely-hit volley moments later, but again the goalkeeper repelled that strike.
The opener finally arrived just before the game ended, with Shamil Sharif making an instant impact after coming on and winning a penalty for his side. Behe duly converted to make amends for his earlier miss and give his team the lead with three minutes remaining.
The striker then wrapped things up in the third minute of injury time by winning the ball from Khairulhin, before tapping it into the empty net.
WHAT THEY SAID
Warriors Head Coach Mirko Grabovac: “I am very happy… It’s not easy, when I came here it was a very hard job for me. I tried to improve a lot of the players. For me, if we are talking about luck, we can talk about a few games, but we cannot talk about it for 10 games. Not winning any games put some pressure on ourselves; even if we don’t have the luck, we need to find it. Sometimes for the result you need luck. We played better than most of our games today.”
Hougang Head Coach Philippe Aw: “You could see this game wasn’t a pretty game for the fans. I am a fan and I wouldn’t want to watch this kind of football. You could see both teams set out today not to lose and be defensively organised. I don’t think any teams had chances to score clear goals. After conceding the penalty we definitely needed to go out and chase the game. We have played better for sure, we didn’t create much chances today as compared to other games.”
Warriors: Mukundan Maran (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Delwinder Singh, Kento Fukuda (C), Ammirul Emmran, Emmeric Ong, Nur Luqman (Shamil Sharif 86’), Firdaus Kasman (Poh Yi Feng 62’), Tajeli Salamat (Sahil Suhaimi 57’), Ho Wai Loon, Jonathan Behe.
Unused subs: Hyrulnizam Juma’at (GK), Ignatius Ang, Fadhil Noh, Daniel Shafiq.
Hougang: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Adam Mitter, Syahiran Miswan, Stanely Ng (Fareez Farhan 72’), Nazrul Nazari, Fabian Kwok (C), Iqbal Hussain (Antoine Viterale 84’), Illyas Lee, Muhaimin Suhaimi (Justin Hui 43’), Shahfiq Ghani, Jordan Vestering.
Unused subs: Zulfairuuz Rudy (GK), Ashrul Syafeeq, Faiz Salleh, Nasrul Taib.
Photo Credit: Football Association of Singapore