|Photo: Gary Goh|
Jordan Webb 7', Ignatius Ang 78'
Ever-improving Hougang United lifted themselves to a dizzying second spot in the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League table after a clean 2-0 victory over under-fire Geylang United at Hougang Stadium on Saturday evening.
An early stunner by Jordan Webb and a late Ignatius Ang header did the job for the Cheetahs, but truth be told, the winning margin could well have been a bigger one, such was their dominance.
This was, in fact, a game that saw plenty of scoring chances for both sides – and in particular a bubbling Webb.
After scoring in the past two games, the Canadian hotshot almost did it again with less than 30 seconds on the clock as he shot into the side netting following an Ante Barac through ball.
Webb was not to be denied six minutes later, though.
The now-familiar Azhar Sairudin lofted pass released him down the left flank, and he cut inside his marker and unleashed a thunderbolt from a tight angle which had Geylang goalkeeper Yazid Yasin beaten hands down.
The half that followed saw large spells of Hougang dominance, with the visitors constantly conceding possession unnecessarily.
|Photo: Yusuf Photography|
Barac had two efforts from range that whizzed just wide, while Guinean talent Mamadou Diallo also wasted a couple of chances.
Just to show that Hougang were not a foreign act, Nurhilmi Jasni then somehow managed to head over from six yards out after a measured Barac cross looked all set to be finished.
Basit Abdul Hamid, who replaced the injured Sobrie Mazelan in the starting lineup, was also involved in a few moves towards the end of the first half.
One was a scuffed effort from a tight angle, when perhaps he should have passed to Diallo, who was in a better position, while he did better later with a snap-shot that Yazid palmed over the bar.
It was not all about the Cheetahs, though, as Geylang did carve out a few decent chances.
A Hassan Aziz effort from range missed the post by inches, while Jozef Kaplan narrowly failed to get onto Michael King’s cross-shot while standing in front of goal.
Lone forward Rizawan Abdullah spurned perhaps the best chance of the half when he curled the ball wide in a one-on-one with Hougang’s returning goalkeeper Ridzuan Fatah Hassan, following a lucky ricochet into his path.
That perhaps gave the Eagles confidence going into the second half, where they had the better of the initial exchanges.
Kaplan’s attempt to round Ridzuan was foiled on 51 minutes, before the Slovak made a better attempt seven minutes later when his surprise shot from the right flank was pushed away by the alert Hougang custodian.
King also had a free header that Ridzuan smothered, and Geylang’s confidence was clearly growing.
Sensing imminent danger of losing the result, Cheetahs coach Nenad Bacina made a couple of telling changes to his lineup.
Putting on fast attackers in Fazli Jaffar and Ignatius Ang, the Croatian saw his move pay off well as both players began to make good attacking inroads before combining for the all-important second goal.
Ang could have scored within minutes of his introduction, but hesitancy in front of goal saw his shot blocked well by Geylang substitute defender Salim Abdul Rahim.
Fazli then sent a cross-shot wide, before Ang’s setup for Diallo went to waste as the latter fluffed his touch at the crucial moment.
Yazid pulled out another top-drawer save from Azhar’s 25-yard free kick on 72 minutes, but he was to be beaten six minutes later.
Fazli’s superb cross from the left saw the diminutive Ang rise unmarked to nod the ball past the stranded Geylang custodian.
That broke any remaining ounce of resistance from the Eagles, even as Yazid still found time to tip over another Ang snap-shot.
Still, with the victory firmly in hand, Bacina was a satisfied man when he spoke to sleague.com.
“Before the match, all around there have been people saying that Geylang have problems,” he noted.
“We took them very seriously, though. We expected them to come and play football and they proved that they could cause us trouble.
“After we scored, somehow we became afraid of winning. We created a few chances but could not convert, something which we have to work on.
|Photo: Yusuf Photography|
“We signed Iggy knowing that he has good potential; he’s nippy, able to hold the ball and trouble defences,” he said.
“My instruction to him was simple: ‘Go inside and score a goal!’
“He’s definitely a talented player, and he will have to continue to work hard.”
Despite the lofty league Hougang now occupy in the league table, Bacina was keen to keep his feet on the ground for now.
“It’s too early to look at the table,” elaborated the former Woodlands Wellington coach.
“It gives us confidence, as well as pressure at the same time, because expectations are going to be higher. We should know how to handle that, and we’ll definitely approach each game as it comes.”
Meanwhile, Bacina’s Geylang counterpart Mike Wong lamented the early goal and missed chances that his team had.
“The first goal came too fast, we had not settled down,” he commented.
“The moment Jordan cut inside, I felt we gave him too much space to take a shot.
“At 0-1 down, we had a few chances from Rizawan and Michael. If we had converted at least one of them before the end of the first half, we would have been in the game.
“We did dominate in the second half, but got caught on the counterattack, and at 0-2, it was a bit difficult to come back,” he sighed.
Nonetheless, Wong was still able to take positives out of this game.
“The misses were down to a lack of composure and confidence in front of goal,” he pointed out.
“It happens in all strikers and it’s down to the coaching staff to encourage them. The goals will come, we’re getting closer.
“Today we tried, although it wasn’t too successful. For trying, I have to give credit to the boys.”