Nurhilmi Jasni 9’, Kunihiro Yamashita 17’, Fairoz Hasan 69’
HARIMAU MUDA 3
Amirul Hisyam 45’ pen, Shahrul Igwan 80’ pen, Adam Nor 86’
By Kenneth Tan
Hougang United was unable to claim their first win of the 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League season after a thrilling 3-3 draw against Harimau Muda at the Hougang Stadium on Thursday night.
Nurhilmi Jasni and Kunihiro Yamashita put Hougang two goals to the good inside the first 20 minutes, but Amirul Hisyam pulled one back for the visitors via a penalty on the stroke of half time.
Substitute Fairoz Hasan restored the Cheetahs’ two-goal lead on 68 minutes, but the Young Tigers salvaged a miraculous draw in the last 10 minutes through Shahrul Igwan’s penalty and Adam Nor’s header.
After the narrow defeat against Balestier Khalsa five days ago at the same venue, Hougang coach Salim Moin opted to make three changes to the starting eleven – bringing in the likes of Kenneth Chang, Renshi Yamaguchi and Muhaymin Salim.
Takahashi Manato and Nurhilmi were pushed to the flanks as a result of those changes — with the duo soon playing a part in the opener on nine minutes.
The former first forced Wan Ahmad Zafran to concede a corner. Nakatake took charge of the resulting set play from which Nurhilmi produced a firm downward harder that proved too hot for Harimau Muda keeper Ramdhan Hamid to handle.
The Cheetahs did not rest on their laurels after that goal as they duly doubled their lead eight minutes through another dead ball. After Manato was fouled by Harimau left back Nazirul Hashim, centre-back Yamashita rose the highest to head home Nakatake’s delivery.
Things went from bad to worse for the away side as they were reduced to 10 men shortly after. Ramdhan was given a straight red by referee Nathan Chan after a rush of blood to his head, which saw him coming out of his area to handle Muhaymin’s goal-bound shot.
Substitute goalie Ilham Amirullah soon came in for the sacrificed Amirul Ikmal and he saw Francisco “Chupe” Ela’s resulting freekick going over.
Oddly though, the Young Tigers seemed to play better despite being one man down. Shahrul’s 20-yard snapshot shaved the right-hand post, before they eventually got one back just before the break.
Faiz Salleh was adjudged to have handled Syafwan Syahlan’s cross inside the area as captain Amirul stepped up to convert the resulting spot-kick, although Hougang keeper Basil Chan managed to dive the right way.
They carried where they left off after the restart, with Syafwan forcing Chan to parry his powerful header from Amirul’s freekick while Adam failed to put his close-range header on target.
However it was Hougang who managed to find their third goal via a flowing move midway through the second half. Manato got the better of Kenny Pallraj down the left before crossing into the box for Chupe, who laid it off for substitute Fairoz to rifle a first-time shot beyond the reach of Ilham.
That should have proved enough for the home side to claim all three points, but the visiting young Tigers refused to buckle down and they were duly rewarded for their unwavering spirit in the final 11 minutes.
First it was Shahrul who slotted home from 12 yards after Chan had brought down Harimau substitute Syazwan Andik, before Adam was left unmarked to nod home Amirul’s freekick on the right-hand side of the area.
That levelled the scores at 3-3 although there was still time for a final twist in the tale, but Ilham ensured the visitors went home with a valuable point by superbly tipping over Nurhilmi’s close-range shot.
Hougang remains on ninth in the table after this result, with four points from eight games. They will next take on title contenders Albirex Niigata (S) in a televised game at the Jalan Besar Stadium on May 1.
Hougang United: Basil Chan (GK), Lau Meng Meng, Kenneth Chang, Kunihiro Yamashita, Faiz Salleh, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Renshi Yamaguchi, Shunsuke Nakatake, Takahashi Manato, Muhaymin Salim (Fairoz Hasan 61’), Francisco “Chupe” Ela (Fareez Farhan 80’).
Harimau Muda: Ramdhan Hamid (GK), Amirul Ikmal (Ilham Amirullah 23’), Annas Rahmat, Wan Ahmad Zafran, Nazirul Hashim, Shahrul Igwan (Syawal Nordin 90’), Kenny Pallraj, Amirul Hisyam (C), Ridzuan Abdunloh (Syazwan Andik 71’), Adam Nor, Syafwan Syahlan.
Photo credit: S.League