SINGAPORE: If there was any concern that the close links between the boardrooms of Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington would affect the football on the pitch, the Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League fixture at the Hougang Stadium on Monday night laid it all to rest.
Seven yellow cards, one red, a host of crunching tackles, 1,600 spectators in the stands and the vigorous chants from the home side's fan club, ensured entertainment for all as Hougang ran out 1-0 winners.
The presence of Singapore's legend Fandi Ahmad in the terraces, along with former Lions Steven Tan and R. Sasikumar, added to the commotion, with fans queuing up for pictures with Fandi after the game.
Mamadou Diallo's header in the 85th minute saved the game for Hougang after Diego Oliveira missed a 69th-minute penalty that saw Woodlands' Graham Tatters sent off for the foul.
"My players wanted to win the game badly but luck was on their (Hougang's) side," said Woodlands' coach R. Balasubramaniam, who served a warning to the rest of the S.League.
"As you have seen today, it won't be easy for any team to break us down and nick a goal. I don't think we'll end up in 11th (of 12 teams) as some in the media have predicted."
While Hougang's coach Aide Iskandar looked relieved with a win to start the season, he was pleased with the strong fan-turnout.
"We knew the fans were coming and I hope more residents come and support us. Many people are expecting us to do well this year, and I'm happy with the win," he said. - TODAY