GBFC 3 - 1 HGFC
This is the gutsiest performance I’ve seen at my time here. The boys battled hard for the result and played beyond themselves!”
Those were the words for Darren Stewart, Gombak United’s head coach of three years, after they survived a second-half onslaught by Hougang United to ultimately emerge 3-1 victors at Jurong West Stadium on Thursday evening to leapfrog their opponents into sixth place.
Korean hitman Chang Jo Yoon netted a brace in the first half to put the home side in a comfortable position, though Mohd Noor Ali halved the deficit just before the break to make things nervous for the Bulls heading into the second 45 minutes.
Although the Cheetahs launched wave after wave of attacks on Zaiful Nizam’s goal, they could not break down the determined Bulls defence, and Shariff Abdul Samat was handed a straight red card while substitute Ridhwan Jamaludin sealed the three points for Gombak in injury time.
The result gives Gombak a total of 40 points from 27 matches, one more than Hougang, who have played two matches more.
The Jurong West-based club’s performance and result were made more impressive by the fact that they were missing their two first-choice centrebacks. Obadin Aikhena was suspended for this tie, while Walid Lounis had a knee injury in the week leading up to the match.
Within the 90 minutes proper, defensive midfielder Tengku Mushadad was also lost to a neck injury, and Chang also limped off with a problem of his own.
“It was like a hospital ward at half-time, with the amount of injuries that we had,” commented Stewart.
“I think we had seven first-team players out at the end of the game due to injuries or suspensions. But it just goes to show how gutsy the lads are to be able to pull off a result like this.
“It was not about the performance today because we were outplayed during majority of the game. It was just sheer guts that got us through, and the players rose beyond themselves today. It was a huge performance.”
Hougang’s Jordan Webb was the hero in previous matches against Gombak, and he looked dangerous at the start of this one, making a couple of runs that troubled the backline.
However, it was Chang who grabbed everyone’s attention when he struck after just ten minutes. The 23-year-old was sent through down the right by compatriot Jung Hee Bong on the counterattack, and he cut into the middle before slotting past Fadhil Salim.
As expected, Hougang quickly pushed for the equaliser, and it was not long before Carlos Delgado had a chance. He collected a lifted pass from Webb inside the penalty box, but despite being unmarked, he pulled his volley wide of the far post.
On 26 minutes, the Bulls found themselves 2-0 up. Chang finished off another counterattack, Zulkiffli Hassim providing the cutback this time from the left after a brilliant run into the box.
The Korean collected the pass before squeezing past two defenders to calmly put the ball into the back of the net to double his tally and his side’s advantage.
It was desperation time for the Cheetahs, and they brought on Brazilian striker Vitor Borges in place of Fazli Jaffar within a couple of minutes.
Being the quality striker he was, it did not take him long to craft a chance. Mamadou Diallo sent him through on goal almost as soon as he came on, but despite having only Zaiful to beat, he was unable to tuck away the chance, forcing Zaiful into a save instead.
Overall, in the first half, it was Gombak who looked more dangerous on the ball, and they seemed the team more likely to score. Hamqaamal Shah, who had just returned from national team duties, saw his powerful shot whistle past the post after he was set up by Chang, before Park Kang Jin volleyed just wide with minutes left to half-time.
However, Hougang managed to pull one back just before the break. Webb sent a ball across goal after venturing to the by-line, and Noor Ali was on hand to turn the ball to the back of the net despite close attention from the defence.
Stewart was less than upset, though, when commenting on the goal that halved his team’s advantage right at the half-time whistle.
“Strange as it may sound, the team agreed that it was a good thing that we conceded the goal,” said the Australian.
“Previously, we were up 2-0 at half-time and they came back to win. So it was a blessing in a way; our mindset changed and we battled in the second half.”
The visitors did everything they could in the second half to overturn the slender lead that Gombak possessed. They definitely looked more comfortable on the ball and seemed to be hungry, almost desperate, to score that elusive goal that would restore parity.
Diallo had a shot from outside the box go wide in the opening minutes of the second half, while Faizal Amir shot tamely at Zaiful despite being unmarked in the box. Delgado also had a free kick turned away by the Bulls custodian on 70 minutes.
Sobrie Mazelan, who had come on for Diallo on 59 minutes, had a chance as well, but he saw his header go over the bar as the Cheetahs relentlessly attempted to break down the Gombak defence.
Despite their best efforts, however, the backline marshalled by captain Jaslee Hatta held up well, keeping their fragile lead intact.
With frustration mounting and time winding down, Hougang captain Shariff was shown a straight red card for seemingly saying something that referee Sukhbir Singh had issues with on 87 minutes. The stadium went silent as Singh flashed the red at the 27-year-old while the Hougang players were dispersing following a failed corner.
Ridhwan then delivered the final nail to Hougang’s coffin in injury time as he dribbled into the penalty box and past a couple of tackles to tuck the ball neatly in the bottom corner of the net, making the final score read 3-1 to Gombak.
“We made things difficult for ourselves and made things easy for Gombak,” said Hougang head coach Aide Iskandar.
“We were simply not good enough on the goals that we conceded. We have turned games around before, and we definitely thought we could have turned this one around too and come back in the second half.
“We were dominating the game right before the red-card incident. We had to push men forward and had to go for the 2-2.” - (SOURCE)