The Cheetahs bright start to the 2016 Great Eastern Yeo’s campaign came to a temporary halt at the Jurong West stadium last Friday night after the Stags recorded their 1st win of the season with a 4-1 scoreline.
Fresh from their 1-0 win over Home Utd FC, the boys from Hougang were taught a footballing lesson when they allowed Tampines Rovers star player Jermaine Pennant and Jordan Webb to dictate play from the wings early in the 1st half.
Coach Balagumaran made 2 changes to the starting line-up with Huzaifah Aziz and Wahyudi Wahid coming in place of Faiz Salleh and Ridho Jafri.
From the kick-off, Tampines Rovers settled down fast and were creating chances with the lively trio of Pennant, Jordan and Billy Memet ensuring it will be a long night for the Cheetahs defense.
M.Anumanthan and Raihan Rahman huffed and puffed in the middle of the park to snuffed out the build up play but Tampines effectively switched their attacks down both flanks, with Jordan proving a handful for Yusiskandar Yusof who was deployed at right back position for this match.
In the 8th minutes of the match, Tampines Rovers took the lead when Shahdan Sulaiman started the move by picking out Jordan with a lofted ball behind the defense. Jordan sent in a cross meant for Fazrul Nawaz but over-hit it and with Ali Hudzaifi failing to clear the ball with his header by a millimeter, the ball dropped nicely for Pennant at the far post who unselfishly squared it back across goal for Billy. Billy shot on goal was charged down by Wahyudi who threw his body to block the shot. Unfortunately, the ball rebounded out to the edge of the 18-yard line and Shahdan was on hand to follow up and hit a half volley that bounced off the ground and into goal.
Within 3 minutes after taking the lead, Tampines took a 2 goals advantage when Izzdin Shafiq sent a long ball towards Jordan on the left wing. Seeing Yusiskandar closing down on him, Jordan flicked his header onto Fazrul who managed to hold off the challenge from Delwinder Singh and set up Billy in the box who despite a good sliding tackle from Wahuyid to dispossessed him, managed to toe poked the ball to the waiting Ismadi Mukhtar on the right. With Huzaifah slow to close him down, Ismadi took a touch to control the ball and rifled in a top corner shot that had Khairulhin Khalid beaten on his near post.
Shell shocked and in disbelief, the Cheetahs tried to crawl their way back into the game with Nazrul Nazari playing a pin-point pass to Stiple Plazibat. The Coratian side-footed shot was deflected for corner by a sliding Ismadi who covered enough ground to divert the danger away in what seems like a certain goal.
Tampines made Hougang pay for the miss when Pennant sent in a freekick after Jordan was fouled earlier by Yusiskandar onto the onrushing Mustafic Fahrudin who had the slightest of touch to glanced his header past a diving Khairulhin for the 3rd goal.
Hougang United woke up from their slumber and once again came close to scoring through Stipe. A cross from Yusiskandar found Huzaifah at the far post who immediately nodded the ball back across goal for Jozef Kaplan. Jozef header was going out till Stipe arrived at the far post and produced a diving header but Izwan Mahbud stood firm and caught the ball at his 2nd attempt. A wasted opportunity but they were not to be denied the goal shortly after a fine display of short passing move.
Anumanthan started the move from midfield to Stipe. With his back towards goal and 2 defenders closing him down, Stipe intelligently played a 1 touch to Nazrul outside the penalty box and continued his run and received the ball back from Nazrul. With Izwan coming off his line, Stipe coolly slotted the ball into the far post for his 2nd goal in as many games for Hougang United FC.
Just before half time, a well worked short corner was not cleared by the Tampines defense and the ball dropped to Nazrul who hit a 1st time volley outside the box towards goal. The ball went through a sea of players but Izwan was at the right place to saved the ferocious shot.
The 2nd half was played in a much slower tempo with Tampines creating numerous chances from outside the box. Pennant sent his 30-yard free-kick over the bar and Raihan hit 1 from outside the box that was easily handled by Izwan after yet again some nice short passes from the Hougang players.
In the 84th minutes, Tampines hit the final nail into the coffin after Ridho Jafri who replaced Nazrul in the 74th min, lost possession at the half way line and with Delwinder closing in on Izzdin for the ball, the young centre-back shockingly put in a meek challenge and allowed Izzdin to slipped past him and played a through ball to Fazrul and the Singapore International made no mistake as he lifted his left foot shot passed Khairulhin for the 4th goal.
A disappointing results for the Cheetahs but they will have to get back on their feet fast as they takes on defending champion Brunei DPMM on 4 March, Friday at the Hougang stadium.