Photo Credit: Football Association of Singapore
SINGAPORE, 4 APRIL 2018 – Taufiq Muqminin scored one and created another as the Young Lions beat Hougang United FC 2-0 in their opening fixture of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night.
It was an outstanding performance from the Young Lions skipper, who led by example and marshalled his defence well in keeping Hougang at bay.
The hosts looked more dangerous in the opening exchanges and had the first real chance after 13 minutes, but Ikhsan Fandi’s low shot went narrowly wide.
At the other end, Amir Zalani thought he had given Hougang the lead nine minutes later, but his effort was disallowed for offside.
There was no denying Fandi Ahmad’s charges though, with Joshua Pereira prodding home at the far post in the 34th minute after Taufiq had knocked Rusyaidi Salime’s corner into his path for the opener.
Ikhsan then came close to doubling the advantage for Young Lions four minutes before the break, but his firm header off Rusyaidi’s cross came off the woodwork much to the relief of a beaten Khairulhin Khalid.
Hougang coach Philippe Aw then reacted by bringing on Muhaimin Suhaimi for midfielder Justin Hui at the break, but it was to no avail as the Cheetahs were still unable to breach the Young Lions backline.
Antoine Viterale and Shahfiq Ghani failed to make their opportunities count and the Young Lions duly punished them in the 67th minute.
A lightning-quick counter attack saw Zulqarnaen break free down the left and he cut the ball back for a waiting Taufiq to fire beyond the flailing arms of Khairulhin.
It could have been 3-0 in favour of the Young Lions on 71 minutes, but Irfan Fandi’s header off yet another Rusyaidi free-kick delivery was excellently tipped over by Khairulhin.
Hougang tried to muster a comeback thereafter with substitute Fabian Kwok and Nazrul Nazari having attempts on goal, but the Young Lions hung on to pick up their first points of the season.
Buoyed by this result, the Young Lions will next face nine-time league champions Warriors FC at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Sunday, April 8 while Hougang too, host Warriors a week later.
What they said
Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “It was good to start off the season with a bang, which takes a bit of pressure off the boys… It was also important for us to get the first win, which was our main objective.
“We were tactically disciplined today and the players fought very hard for one another. There’s still a long way to go for us but hopefully we can get better from here.
“I’ve always had belief in him (Taufiq) and I’m happy for him. Despite not playing regularly in the last one and a half years, he managed to control the defence very well and it was a classy goal from him especially for a centre-back to run the length of the pitch to score that.”
Hougang Head Coach Philippe Aw: “I felt we started the game well and controlled proceedings, until we conceded that first goal, which allowed the Young Lions to grow in confidence. It was disappointing as we didn’t defend the corner well with the man markers not doing their job.
“The second goal we conceded was terrible, especially when it came from our own attacking corner. This just showed that the players switched off and didn’t stick to their task.”
Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Prakash Raj, Taufiq Muqminin (C), Irfan Fandi, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Rusyaidi Salime (R. Aaravin 90’), Aniq Iskandar (Naufal Azman 85’), Joshua Pereira, Naqiuddin Ahmad (Ifwat Ismail 90’), Syahrul Sazali, Ikhsan Fandi.
Unused subs: Hairul Syirhan, Nazhiim Harman, Danial Syafiq, Syed Firdaus Hassan.
Hougang: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Ashrul Syafeeq, Illyas Lee, Faiz Salleh, Stanely Ng, Justin Hui (Muhaimin Suhaimi 46’), Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Amir Zalani (Fabian Kwok 70’), Shahfiq Ghani (Iqbal Hussain 60’), Antoine Viterale.
Unused subs: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Gerald Ting, Adam Mitter, Fareez Farhan.