Photo Credit: Football Association of Singapore
Shahril Ishak netted for the fifth Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) game running, but Shahfiq Ghani stole the show with three assists as Hougang United FC and Home United FC played out a 3-3 thriller at Hougang Stadium on Wednesday night.
Home looked set to collect the three points after goals from Song Ui-young, Faritz Hameed and Shahril put them 3-1 up with 17 minutes left in regulation time.
But Hougang produced a stunning fight-back to grab a point via goals from Adam Mitter and Faiz Salleh, who scored within four minutes of each other.
Eager to get their first SPL win on board, Hougang started off the better side on the wet pitch and went close to scoring on a couple of occasions in the first five minutes.
Home – wearing their black away kit for the first time this season – quickly settled in though and should have broken the deadlock on 13 minutes.
Put through on goal by Song, Shahril’s shot from a tight angle came off the right-hand post before bouncing to safety.
The Protectors threatened again two minutes later with Song denied in a one-on-one opportunity with Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid. Hougang almost hit them on the counter thereafter, but Nazrul Nazari saw his close-range shot superbly charged down by Home custodian Rudy Khairullah.
Aidil Sharin’s side would eventually open the scoring on 34 minutes. Shahril’s incisive inward pass picked out Song, who turned his marker well before firing a sizzling shot into the bottom left corner from 18 yards.
The visitors should have gotten a second two minutes later but Khairulhin somehow clawed away Shahrin Saberin’s point-blank effort, leaving the defender clutching his head in disbelief.
The Hougang goalkeeper could do nothing on 39 minutes though when Home retook the lead through Faritz, who was on hand to convert after Shahril’s penalty came off the post.
Hougang managed to pull one back on 57 minutes when Shahfiq’s lofted pass picked out Iqbal, who spotted Rudy off the line and conjured a fine lobbed finish.
But Shahril looked to have made sure of the points on 64 minutes when he headed in a cross from substitute Hafiz Nor, who had just come on three minutes earlier.
The Cheetahs refused to play dead though and left Home reeling with two quick punches.
First, on 73 minutes, Mitter leapt well at the near post to head home Shahfiq’s inswinging corner.
Four minutes later, Shahfiq was at it again with a superb backheel into the path of Faiz – who needed no second invitation to produce a thumping first-time finish past Khairulhin from 10 yards.
Shahfiq had the opportunity to round off a superb showing three minutes from time, but his free kick from just outside the area flew wide of the mark.
Both sides eventually had to settle for a share of the spoils, which meant Home moved up a place to fifth with seven points from five matches as Hougang remain second-from-bottom with three points from five.
Hougang Head Coach Philippe Aw: “It shouldn’t have been a penalty (for Home’s second goal); Song’s shot hit Illyas’ (Lee) stomach and it’s not his hand. But we said at half-time let’s forget the ref(eree)’s decision and focus on the game. We kept going at 3-1 down and the boys displayed good fighting spirit to get a draw.
“I’m very happy for Shahfiq, he completed 80-plus minutes and got three assists. We all know he’s capable of that and I want him to keep going like this.
“He’s another one with brains like Shahril, who should be in the (Singapore) National Team. Next up for us is Albirex, who started the season on fire and dominated every game. But anything can happen in football and I believe we can go there and get a result to kick-start our season.”
Home Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “It was a game where both teams played quite well and we didn’t finish a lot of chances in the first half. Hougang deserved a point in the end, but I thought my boys gave everything tonight.
“We have many games coming up, so at 3-1 perhaps their minds start to shut down and think about the next game. We thought they won’t come back, so that’s where the boys need to learn that it’s not safe at 3-1 and nothing is over.
“But I’m happy with Song and Shahril. They’re gelling well like what Faris (Ramli) and Stipe (Plazibat) did last year. Fazli (Ayob) came in (to replace the injured Shakir Hamzah) and did quite well in the second half too.”
Hougang: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Gerald Ting (Ashrul Syafeeq 66’), Illyas Lee, Adam Mitter, Faiz Salleh, Nazrul Nazari, Syahiran Miswan, Fabian Kwok (C), Muhaimin Suhaimi (Fareez Farhan 65’), Shahfiq Ghani (Daniel Goh 88’), Iqbal Hussain.
Unused subs: Zulfairuuz Rudy (GK), Justin Hui, Amir Zalani, Jordan Vestering.
Home: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Shahrin Saberin, Juma’at Jantan, Faizal Roslan, Faritz Hameed, Izzdin Shafiq (C), M. Anumanthan (Aqhari Abdullah 71’), Shakir Hamzah (Fazli Ayob 47’), Amiruldin Asraf (Hafiz Nor 61’), Song Uiyoung, Shahril Ishak.
Unused subs: Eko Pradana Putra (GK), Amy Recha, Iqram Rifqi, Christopher Van Huizen.