The Unofficial Hougang United FC Supporters Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

RHB Singapore Cup: Hougang geared up for revenge mission

Koh Yizhe
RHB Singapore Cup
Semi Finals (1st Leg)
Jurong East Stadium, Kick-Off 730pm

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) would certainly have fond memories of their last meeting with Hougang United.

The last time the two teams met, the White Swans secured their first piece of silverware in their eight-year history in Singapore, beating the Cheetahs in the League Cup 2011 final in July through a penalty shootout.

When the two teams cross paths again at Jurong East Stadium on Tuesday evening, a spot in the final of another competition will be at stake as they face off in the first part of the two-legged RHB Singapore Cup semifinals.

It will be the fourth time this season that the two teams have met on the pitch, with the Japanese club coming out tops on two occasions. Besides the League Cup final, Albirex have also demolished Hougang 5-1 in the league at Jurong East on the first week of July.

However, Hougang did secure a 1-0 win when the teams first met this year at Hougang Stadium. Ratna Suffian was the hero then, scoring the only goal of the match six minutes from time, with goalkeeper Fadhil Salim turning in an outstanding performance.

The Cheetahs will definitely hope for the same kind of form from their custodian as they face a very strong attacking side in Albirex.

The White Swans’ offensive prowess is feared throughout the league, as they have scored more goals than any other team this season. Big results are certainly proving their specialty, and clubs like fellow Cup semifinalists Etoile and Home United can attest to that as they have been beaten 2-7 and 0-4 respectively.

Hougang head coach Aide Iskandar is well aware of this, and he will definitely prepare his charges for the inevitable Albirex onslaught. It was no secret that he had one eye on this match as he rested a couple of his key players in their 1-1 draw with the Courts Young Lions.

“I’ve always said since the start of the season that Albirex are definitely a good side,” he remarked.

“They are a complete and well-balanced team that can work very hard and play together as one. They are good in every department and to top it all off, they have a very good coach.

“But it is a new 90 minutes, and while it was hard to lose the way we did in the League Cup final, we have grown from strength to strength. We’ve played them before and we’ve beaten them before. They are not untouchables.”

The 36-year-old also admitted that Hougang are the underdogs heading into this season-defining tie, not that he seemed to mind.

“It suits us,” he said.

“The pressure will be on Albirex to get a win. They have to get a win since they are the favourites.”

But Hougang are no pushovers themselves. A forward line boasting names like Diego de Oliveira and Jordan Webb and supported by a midfield cast of Carlos Delgado and Mohd Noor Ali would cause any team’s defence trouble.

Despite playing this first leg away from home, Aide made it clear that he wants his team to score goals and go for the win instead of sitting back to play for a draw.

“You never know what will happen if you sit back and defend throughout the 90 minutes,” he said.

“You might concede a late goal and all your efforts will be wasted. We want to go for a win.

“But it will not be an open game. Opponents have tried playing an open game with them and were punished badly.

“Our defence will start from the strikers and work its way down. I will have to instil a good defensive strategy against them. It certainly is not going to be easy, but we’ll be ready for them.”

Hougang will be without the services of Faizal Amir as he is suspended for this first game, while Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama would probably welcome Yosuke Saito back after he sat out the last two games with an injury.

The former J-League player will be spoilt for choice in attack as he looks to pick his best attacking side to unlock a fragile Hougang defence that has already been breached 49 times in the league this season. Club top-scorer Shotaro Ihata is almost certain to start, but it is unclear who will take the duties of supporting him from the flanks.

And there is little surprise in that. Apart from Saito, there is the effervescent Tatsuro Inui, whose goal pegged back the Young Lions last week, and half-Brazilian Bruno Suzuki Castanheira.

All of them are proven scorers this season, and with competition within the team at an all-time high, Hougang’s defence had better be prepared for a much-motivated Albirex team! - (SOURCE)

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