A brazen and convincing Hougang United side showed up at Woodlands Stadium on Tuesday evening to defeat hosts Woodlands Wellington 2-0 and claim a place in the League Cup quarterfinals.
It was swift revenge for the ferocious Cheetahs, who just four days earlier had fallen 2-3 to the same opponents in a surprise result at Jalan Besar Stadium when the two sides had met in the S.League.
Moon Soon Ho was the star on that occasion, but on his own turf he had a far quieter game as Hougang got the redress they might have felt they deserved.
“I had spoken to the boys about this game (after the earlier loss to Woodlands),” said their coach Aide Iskandar.
“It was not an easy game today as Woodlands like to pack their defence. We did well to break them down and keeping the clean sheet was good.
“Perhaps, on the chances we had, we should have killed the game off earlier. But tonight we did well enough to go through, and we next meet SAF(FC) on Friday.
“We came in third in the League Cup last year and hope to do better this year. But it will not be an easy encounter with SAF – still, we look to clear that obstacle by winning that game.”
Aide had a point when he spoke of missed chances, as the first 20 minutes saw Hougang mis-hitting many loose balls.
Fazli Jaffar finally put form and function together on 21 minutes when he was fed the ball down the right of the box, a quick breakthrough and a low drive going past the goalkeeper’s right to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Three minutes later the energised Jordan Webb was at the end of a cross by Fazli off a free kick down the left, but the ball was a touch too high and the 23-year-old headed over.
To their credit, the Rams defended well, in the process keeping the scoreline respectable.
Webb’s speedy runs down the flanks almost led to a goal or two, but the close marking of Sazali Salleh kept him at bay and tamed his effort as goalkeeper Ang Bang Heng mopped up.
On the half-hour mark, Carlos Delgado packed a venomous low shot that Ang once again did well to snuff out with a diving save.
Delgado’s South American teammate Vitor Borges was up next on 37 minutes, after Mohd Noor Ali lofted a good ball to the Brazilian inside the Woodlands box, but a good defensive clearance was enough to deny Borges.
Two minutes later, the effervescent Webb was one-on-one with ex-teammate Duncan David Elias, and even though the defender was beaten, the crossbar was not, and Delgado was disappointed to see his follow-up effort come off Ang’s leg and go over.
Ang had to be on top form for the Rams, and this he was as he repelled the constant onslaught brought to bear on his goalmouth area.
On some occasions, though, the Hougang attackers made life hard for themselves as well. Webb’s shot on 54 minutes went whizzing past Ang’s left post, after which a Borges effort from the same spot went out again in similar fashion seconds later.
Seeing that close-range attacks instigated by the veteran Noor Ali were coming to nothing, Borges went for a long-distance effort on 65 minutes, but this too screamed over instead of finding the underside of the Rams’ top post.
Fazli then looked all set to score a second for the visitors six minutes later, but Ang again rescued his side.
It was a matter of time before Hougang would be rewarded, however, and Borges claimed the honour 73 minutes in when he stormed in from the centre and unleashed a shot from just inside the box, Ang beaten comprehensively as he watched the ball hit the back of the net after making a spirited full-stretch dive.
The joy would not last long for the former Balestier Khalsa man, who was sent off five minutes later for a second yellow card for handling the ball, after he had picked up an earlier booking for a niggly foul on his opponent.
Yet having one fewer man did little to discourage the Cheetahs, and Delgado’s cheeky side-footed flick from fully 30 yards out was reaching for the net – but it was an easy catch for Ang, who simply rose high to pluck the landing leather.
A rare chance then materialised for the hosts on 86 minutes when Guntur Djafril and Hyun Jong Woon played tandem into the Cheetahs box, Hyun’s attempt kept out by custodian Fadhil Salim.
Even a penalty for the Rams in injury time could not bring dividends for the home side, after Hyun was fouled in the penalty area and referee K. Kalimuthu pointed to the spot.
Moon stepped up for his first meaningful piece of action, but his cracker bounced off Fadhil’s left post to seal the scoreline at 2-0 four minutes later.
Rams coach R. Balasubramaniam was full of praise for his opponents after watching his battle-weary Rams succumb to their barrage of frequent pounding.
“It boiled down to small errors that led to their goals, and they also played well to contain Moon,” he said.
“Credit to them for cutting off our attack. We had a plan B, which was to play diagonal balls down the flanks, but this did not materialise.
“It’s back to training to shore up our attack and strengthen defensively as well. We have a good break before our next S.League game, so now our focus goes back to the league.” - (SOURCE)