Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Home United’s Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title chances took a snag as they fell 3-2 to Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
The result leaves Home five points behind leaders Albirex Niigata (S) after 12 games played, while Hougang leapfrogged Geylang International into fifth with 16 points in 11 games.
The opening half-hour was a cagey affair as clear chances were few and far between.
Irfan Fandi headed wide from an Izzdin Shafiq cross in the seventh minute, before Juma’at Jantan’s fierce shot in the box was charged down by Ali Hudzaifi.
Instead, it was the designated visitors who took the lead in the 33rd minute as Nazrul Nazari’s volley from the edge of the box flew into the top corner despite Home second-choice goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah getting a touch.
Midfielder Fabian Kwok could have extended the lead for the Cheetahs two minutes after the opener but saw his close-range header parried by Rudy.
They were made to rue that miss as Plazibat levelled matters in the 37th minute, with the Croatian coolly slotting past Khairulhin Khalid after his initial effort was blocked by Lionel Tan.
However, Hougang were in the lead once again four minutes before half-time as Nazrul latched onto Azhar Sairudin’s backheel before firing home in off the post.
The Protectors brought on Khairul Nizam for Amiruldin Asraf at the break and the substitute would make an instant impact after coming on.
The Singapore international ghosted in behind the Hougang defence to meet Camara’s cross before powering a header past a helpless Khairulhin to make it 2-2 in the 50th minute.
Faris nearly put Home ahead for the first time in the match two minutes later but his effort flew narrowly over the bar.
Plazibat came close in the 73rd minute after being set up by substitute Marijan Suto but drilled straight at Khairulhin before Nizam somehow headed wide off Hariss Harun’s well-weighted cross moments later.
A well-worked move down the right between Fareez and Kogure then almost resulted in a goal but the former’s decision-making let him down as the chance went begging.
It mattered little however, as Fareez would pop up with the winner seven minutes from time, curling a fine finish past Rudy from the edge of the box to send the Hougang fans into raptures.
Suto and Hariss had opportunities to rescue a point for Home in the closing stages but it was too little too late as Hougang hung on for a victory.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “I take the blame and responsibility for this result. It was not only about the defensive errors that we committed but we also didn’t take the chances that we had.
“Overall, the boys tried their best and I cannot fault them. They didn’t give up until the final whistle and this is one of those games we can learn from.
“We are not thinking of the title just yet however, we are going to take it one game at a time and we have to look forward.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “It was a satisfying win for us today against a team like Home who have Singapore Under-22 internationals as well as quality foreigners. It was a tough game for us today but the boys worked very hard and played according to instructions.
“It was pleasing for us to beat two AFC Cup ASEAN Zone finalists in Home and Ceres-Negros FC, it was all down to hard work and I’m glad we got the three points. After tonight, it has given the boys added confidence as they know that beating Ceres in our last game was not due to luck.”
Home United: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Juma’at Jantan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Irfan Fandi (Afiq Yunos 84’), Sirina Camara, Amiruldin Asraf (Khairul Nizam 46’), Hariss Harun (C), Izzdin Shafiq, Adam Swandi (Marijan Suto 70′), Faris Ramli, Stipe Plazibat
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari (Faiz Salleh 89’), Delwinder Singh, Lionel Tan, Atsushi Shirota, Ali Hudzaifi, Fabian Kwok, Zulfahmi Arifin (Antoine Viterale 59’), Azhar Sairudin (C) (Fumiya Kogure 71’), Syahiran Miswan, Fareez Farhan