Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Home United moved to the top of the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League standings on goal difference after an industrious 2-0 win over Hougang United at the Hougang Stadium on Sunday night.
After a goalless first-half, Irfan Fandi and Stipe Plazibat struck in the second 45 as the Protectors claimed three points to stay unbeaten after four games played.
The opening exchanges were tightly-contested with clear chances few and far between.
Nazrul Nazari and Fumiya Kogure had attempts on goal inside the opening 15 minutes for Hougang but they were unable to trouble Home’s Rudy Khairullah – who was deputising for the injured Hassan Sunny in goal.
Rudy however, had to be alert to parry Zulfahmi Arifin’s inswinging freekick for a corner on 19 minutes.
The visitors then conjured their first chance of the night in the 29th minute when Plazibat came close with a freekick that sailed over the bar.
The breakthrough nearly came in the 36th minute after an uncharacteristic error from Hariss Harun allowed Azhar Sairudin through on goal but the latter contrived to fire into the side-netting instead.
The Cheetahs were presented with another opportunity to open the scoring two minutes later but Irfan Fandi hacked Kogure’s effort from close range off the line.
The deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark when Irfan slammed home from inside the six-yard box after the Hougang defence failed to deal with substitute Christopher van Huizen’s corner delivery.
Forward Pablo Rodriguez was brought on for Nurhilmi Jasni shortly after the opener as Hougang coach Philippe Aw sought a way back into the game for his side.
Azhar could have levelled matters for the hosts but his low drive from the edge of the area was easily gathered by Rudy.
They were made to rue that miss as Home sealed victory in the 72nd minute.
A cross from the right by Amiruldin Asraf was knocked back across the box to an unmarked Plazibat, who took a touch before stabbing home from close range for his eighth of the season.
Rodriguez almost reduced the deficit for Hougang with two minutes remaining when he connected with Kogure’s cross but saw his header fly over the bar.
Amiruldin and Song Uiyoung had chances in the closing stages to further extend Home’s lead, but it mattered little as they hung on to collect their third victory of the S.League season.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “Overall, the team worked really hard together although it’s disappointing – we lost concentration at one set piece which we didn’t defend well.
“The first Home goal changed the whole complexion of the game. In the first-half, we played good football even when the opposition kept coming at us. The first-half belonged to us, Khai(rulhin) Khalid did not have much to do. However, we need to make sure when we dominate, we must finish off the chances.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “I was pleased with the character and effort of the boys today.
“They did very well considering the schedule we were having. They know it’s going to be tough coming to Hougang especially when we have not beaten Hougang at home for years.
“Many pople ask me why Irfan plays as centre-back but he showed today that he can be the next Baihakki (Khaizan) or even Aide (Iskandar). He’s still young and did well, his confidence level will go up but not to forget, other players also pass to him to score.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Lionel Tan, Atsushi Shirota, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari (Fairoz Hasan 88’), M Anumanthan, Fabian Kwok, Ali Hudzaifi, Fumiya Kogure, Nurhilmi Jasni (C) (Pablo Rodriguez 67’), Azhar Sairudin (Amir Zalani 76’)
Home United: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Juma’at Jantan, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Sirina Camara, Shamil Sharif (Christopher van Huizen 58’), Izzdin Shafiq (Aqhari Abdullah 45’), Song Uiyoung (C), Faris Ramli, Amiruldin Asraf (Adam Swandi 90’), Stipe Plazibat