By Ang Tian Tian

The Cheetahs debuted their revamped team under new head coach Philippe Aw in a roaring success against the Eagles on Monday night in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S League. The tight match saw Hougang brandishing a team with a formidable offensive and defensive line to clinch a 2-0 win against Geylang International at Hougang Stadium.

A goal by Fumiya Kogure midway into the first half and a late goal from Iqbal Hussain sealed the three-point victory for Hougang.

The Eagles had a shot at an early goal at the 10th minute when midfielder Shahfiq Ghani took a free kick from a tight angle. However they were denied the goal when Hougang custodian Khairulhin Khalid tipped the ball over the crossbar.

As the game continued, Hougang retained possession of the ball as Geylang’s long range passes could not seem to find their players. The Cheetahs sought to create chances by making multiple advances into the Eagle’s half but was hindered by their opponent’s defensive line.

At the 24th minute, M. Anumanthan’s right-wing cross found Japanese playmaker Kogure who had situated himself strategically in the penalty area. The midfielder skillfully darted away from his marker by feigning a kick before firing a low shot into the goal. Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari leapt into action to deflect the ball but it only grazed the tip of his gloves before rolling across the line.

Hougang’s had a chance to double their lead just before half time, but midfielder Azhar Sairudin’s ambitious attempt at a 25-yard volley flew over.

The 41th minute saw Geylang’s Amy Recha racing towards the goal with an open chance at scoring before Hougang midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin intercepted the ball in the nick of time, ending the action for the first half.

In the second half, Geylang had an opportunity to equalise at the 54th minute when Shawal Anuar cleverly found a space out of defence to connect with the lobbed pass from Shahfiq Ghani. Shawal rounded Khairulhin but Zulfahmi tracked back in time to clear the ball off the line.

Another opportunity arose for the Eagles when Garbiel Quak barged into the penalty box pass his marker to receive a chip pass from new Costa Rican recruit Victor Coco. However, custodian Khairulhin ran out in the nick of time to push the ball away in mid-air.

Keen to score, Geylang charged forward in the last 10 minutes. Hougang had a scare when Victor dribbled past the defenders in the penalty box and drove a shot. But Khairulhin denied the goal with his reflex save.

Just a few minutes later, Hougang countered the attack when Pablo Rodriguez cleverly played a through ball to Iqbal Hamid Hussain who dashed to the goal unmarked. The latter calmly lodged the ball into the bottom corner of the net, putting the hosts up 2-0 and sealing their victory.

The victory marks a promising start for the Cheetahs in the S League title race as they prepare to face Tampines Rovers at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night. The new team has indeed proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with this season.

Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), M. Anumanthan, Atsushi Shirota, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari, Syahiran Miswan, Afiq Noor (Gareth Low 89’), Ariyan Shamsuddin Malik (Fareez Farhan 58’), Fumiya Kogure, Azhar Sairudin (C) (Iqbal Hussain 72’), Pablo Rodriguez Aracil

Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Faritz Hameed (C), Anders Aplin, Yuki Ichikawa, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Shawal Anuar, Shahfiq Ghani, Safirul Sulaiman, Gabriel Quak (Nor Azli Yusoff 70’), Victor Coto, Amy Recha (Hairey Jamal 79’)

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