Hougang United FC failed to kept pace with the leader pack in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League when they narrowly lost 3-2 to Brunei DPMM in their away match at the Hassanal Bolkiah stadium in Brunei on Saturday.
Brunei DPMM dominated the early proceedings of the match in the 1st half and went in front as early as the 9th minutes courtesy of a header from Paulo Sergio and they duly doubled their lead when Azwan Ali found the back of the net at the 25th minutes.
As in the Cheetahs previous match against Tampines Rovers FC, they came back strongly in the 2nd half and managed to pulled themselves level with goals from Stipe Plazibat and captain Jozef Kaplan.
But there will be no fairytale ending this time round as Sharazen Said who came on as a sub in the 65th minutes scored in the 82nd minutes and gave DPMM the 3 points they craved after failing to gathered maximum points in their last 3 matches.
Defending champion DPMM started strongly from the first whistle and pressed high up in the Cheetahs half. The towering presence of Rafael Ramazotti gave the Cheetahs backline a torrid time with his link up play with Sergio. With the supporting Azwan Ali just behind Rafael, the Cheetahs were under constant pressure dealing with DPMM triple threats.
DPMM took the lead in the 9th minutes when the impressive Azwan were given time on the right flank and after feigning to take a shot, he delivered a teasing cross to the far post and Sergio made no mistake to send his header past Khairulhim Khalid in goal.
In the 25th minutes, DPMM doubled their lead when an uncharacteristic mistake by Raihan Rahman gave the ball away to Sergio who played a defence splitting pass to Azwan and he duly slotted the ball into the goal.
DPMM continued to search for the 3rd goal with efforts from Rafael but Khairulhin was in good position to gather his header. Azwan Salleh was next to try his luck with a thumping shot but could only fire straight at Khairulhin before referee Jansen Foo blew for half time.
Hougang United came out strongly in the 2nd half and cheered on by the loud Hougang Hools, they were awarded a free-kick in the 55th minutes after Jozef was fouled outside the box. Up-stepped Stipe and he curled his shot beyond the reach of Wardun Yussof for his 8th goal of the season.
Buoyed by the goal, the Cheetahs nearly scored the equalizing goal after good work by Stipe down the left flank. His cut back found Iqbal Hussain who came in as a sub in the 53rd minutes, but he could not repeat his heroic from Tampines match as he sent his shot over the crossbar.
Rafael came close minutes later when his shot on goal was brilliantly pushed away by Khairulhin. But Hougang were not to be denied as Jozef finally broke his duck for the club in the 58th minutes as he managed to squeezed past 2 defenders and placed his shot past Wardun into the far post. The equalizing goal sparked a jubilant celebration from the bench and the away fans who had traveled up to Brunei to support the team. For the record, Jozef have scored against DPMM with 3 different teams from Tampines Rovers in 2014 and Geylang International FC in 2015. The nemesis of DPMM have struck again.
The away side nearly went ahead after Jozef broke the offside trap and tied up Stipe for a tap-in with a square pass across the goal but the fast retrieving Brian Mclean managed to get his foot to the ball and cleared away the danger.
Just as a draw seems destined for this entertaining match, DPMM came up with the winning goal through Shahrazen after a mistake from Afiq Noor allowed Sergio to nipped the ball from him and the resulting cross found Shahrazen at the far post and he made no mistake firing the ball past Khairulhin for the winner.
Hougang failure to pick up maximum points from their last 2 matches saw them dropped to 6 in the league table albeit a game in hand and they will next play Garena Young Lions at their fortress Hougang stadium on Thursday, 19 May 2016. It will be an interesting game as the Young Lions defeated Warriors FC 3-1 in their last match and with Hougang’s unbeaten home record at stake, the Cheetahs have to bounce back with a win to stay in the top half of the table.
Photos courtesy of Shahiruddin Hassan