Written by: Nevin Gabriel Khoo
Brunei DPMM snapped their 14-match winless run in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League with a narrow 2-1 victory over Hougang United at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night as they avenged for their loss at home four days ago.
With an eye on the upcoming RHB Singapore Cup semi-final against Global Cebu FC, Hougang head coach Philippe Aw tweaked his starting line-up with nine different players from the side that beat DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan.
It was thus unsurprising that the visitors began the first half stronger with Daud Gazale registering three shots in the opening 15 minutes.
The pressure paid off in the 29th minute as the right winger dribbled past two Hougang players before playing a through ball to Adi Said who fired home to give the Wasps a well deserved lead.
The hosts had a chance to pull level three minutes later when a cutback from captain Nurhilmi Jasni left Pablo Rodriguez with a gaping goal but Awangku Mu’izzuddin somehow managed to recover and put it out for a corner.
From the ensuing set-piece, Rodriguez was denied once again by Mu’izzuddin who tipped it over.
Things got worse for the home side in the 50th minute as custodian Ridhuan Barudin sustained a shoulder injury after saving Azwan Ali’s shot that was destined for the top right corner.
Hougang pressed forward in search of a equaliser and nearly pulled one back after Azhar Sairuddin thumped a freekick against the top right post.
With Aw’s charges pushing further up the pitch, that left holes in their defence which DPMM exploited. Seeing substitute goalkeeper off his line, Daud Gazale scored an audacious chip from 25 yards out to put the 2015 S.League champions two goals up on the night.
The Cheetahs managed to pull one back in the 85th minute when a penetrating run from substitute Iqbal Hussain drew in the Wasps defence. The tricky winger slipped teammate Azhar Sairudin in on goal and the latter slotted home to reduce the deficit.
Hougang pressed for an equaliser in the stoppage time but Steve Kean’s charges hung on to claim their second win of the campaign.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “If you want to count the number of chances both teams had, then yes, a draw would have been a fairer result. We had many good chances in the first half as well. At 0-1, if we had equalised, the game would have been different.”
“Next week, the two games in the cup semi-finals are very important for us. We made 9 changes today. During this period we have five games in 15 days plus traveling to Brunei and back. We have used a big squad of players.
“Of course we will need to see who is the best available 18 for the game at Jalan Besar because we really want to do well in the Cup.”
Brunei DPMM Head Coach Steve Kean: “It’s been a long time coming. I said to the players just after the game that there have been games this season where we have played just as well or better but we did not manage to get the results that our performances deserved.”
“We’ve always got a result here. All the years since I’ve been here, we’ve always done well here. Like I said, I can think that there has been seven or eight occasions where I would have been disappointed with a draw and we went on and lost those games so I believe the win would have brought belief to the team.”
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK) (Khairulhin Khalid 50’), Fairoz Hasan (Amir Zalani 81’), Delwinder Singh, Azhar Sairudin, Pablo Rodriguez, Syahiran Miswan, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Afiq Noor, Lionel Tan, Wahyudi Wahid, Gareth Low (Iqbal Hussain 81’)
Brunei DPMM: Awangku Mu’izzuddin (GK), Rosmin Kamis (C), Haizul Rani, Hendra Azam, Daud Gazale (Khairul Anwar 86’), Nurikhwan Othman (Najib Tarif 90’), Helmi Zambin, Hazwan Hamzah, Rafael Ramazotti, Adi Said, Vincent Salas