With the biggest sponsorship deal for an S.League club in the 21-year history of the domestic professional football competition announcement made with E-gaming and e-commerce company Garena unveiled hours before the friendly match, the Cheetahs put up a good performance in the night to bring the young lions team down to earth.
Newly-named Garena Young Lions showed lots of determination in the early part of the game, closing down the Cheetahs in every part of the pitch and forcing misplaced and hurried passes from the Cheetahs much experience players.
With newly installed head coach Patrick Hesse on the stands with National team coaches Bernd Stange and Fandi Ahmad, the Young Lions were a discipline unit in the 1st half, absorbing the attacks from Hougang before launching into their quick passing movement once they gained possession of the ball.
Hougang United created the 1st intention of the match when a free-kick was awarded outside the penalty box on the left and up stepped Fumiya Kogure. He curled the ball expertly over the wall and with the goalkeeper beaten by the swerve of the new Mitre ball, the ball crashed onto the upright and bounced back into play, much to the relief of the Young Lions bench.
Against the run of play, Garena Young Lions took the lead right on the stroke of half-time when a free-kick was awarded this time round to their favor. Cheetahs old-boy Fareez Farhan struck the ball hard and towards the wall and it took a heavy deflection and passed a wrong footed Ridhuan Barudin into goal.
Coach Bala reshuffled his formation and line up for the 2nd half and the Cheetahs came out a much different side. Right from the restart, they showed their intend to get back into the game.
There was no agony this time round when another free-kick was awarded to the men in orange on the right side of the field. Fumiya again curled the ball over the 5 men wall and passed the fully stretched arms of the goalkeeper and into the side netting for his 1st ever goal for Hougang United FC.
Buoyed by the equalizing goal, Hougang United went on the offensive after stabilizing the back-line with Delwinder Singh and Yusiskandar Yusof coming on in the 2nd half. From another set-piece, a short corner was played to Fumiya who beat his marker easily and sent in a cross to Kaplan who was arriving at the far post. An unmarked Kaplan headed the ball back across goal to Delwinder who half volleyed the ball into the net to the delirious of the supporters in the stands.
But the Young Lions side managed to scored their equalizing goal within minutes when a through ball sent Fareez through and he made no mistake slotting the ball past the despairing dive of Fawwaz Anuar who came on to replaced Ridhuan in the 2nd half.
The crowd were yearning for more goals in an attacking match between this 2 sides and they were not to be disappointed when from yet another set-piece from the Cheetahs. Khairulnizam swing in a deep cross and Delwinder out jumped his marker and thumped his header off a slight deflection into the goal.
The Cheetahs put the match beyond the Young Lions deep into stoppage time after Nur Na’iim showed good feet to beat his marker before dribbling into the box and squaring to an unmarked Nurhilmi who had the simplest task to placed the ball into goal.
A well-deserved win for the Cheetahs as they gear up for their final pre-season match against the reigning RHB Singapore Cup Champion Albirex Niigata (S) on 6th of February (Saturday), 7.00pm at Hougang Stadium.
Photographs courtesy of Christina Seah-Rodrigues & Heinkel Heinz