Stanislave Vidakovic 80'
Qiu Li 42', Shotaro Ihata 56'
They might have found themselves on the end of a defeat but that did not deter Hougang United from putting up a credible performance against 2011 Singapore Cup champions, Home United as going down 1-2 in this week’s televised game at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday evening.
Home named an unchanged side from the one which thumped seven goals past Geylang United on Sunday. On the other hand, there were two changes for Hougang, with the most notable one being Canadian forward Jordan Webb. It was revealed after the game that Jordan was actually down with a fever over the past week. The other one saw Ridhwan Osman coming in for Sobrie Mazelan.
The game got off to a slow start, with Hougang content to defend in numbers while waiting for the opportunity to strike. That worked a treat, as they managed to contain Home for large spells of the first half. Hougang were unlucky not to have taken the lead on 20 minutes. After some good build-up play on the right, Azhar Sairudin saw his volley float narrowly over the bar with Home custodian Lionel Lewis rooted to the spot.
Mamdou Diallo was then next in line three minutes later, coming close to breaking the deadlock when he managed a shot from 20 yards out, despite the close attentions of the Home defenders. However, his shot beat Lionel but not the post as Hougang started to grow in confidence.
Frustrated by the lack of movement in the final third, Home Coach Lee Lim Saeng made an early substitution, bringing on Firdaus Idros for defender Jeremy Chiang on 25 minutes in what seemed to be an attacking move.
Home were however, the team who took the lead in the 42nd minute with a controversial goal. As a cross from the right came in, Syaqir Sulaiman handled the ball after appearing to have been nudged from behind by Mendy as both of them went up to challenge for the ball. Referee Muhd Taqi, to the disbelief of the Hougang team, pointed to the spot and Qiu Li stepped up confidently to send Hougang ‘keeper Fadhil Salim the wrong way, firing Home into the lead. It was a slender one-goal lead Home took into the break.
It was a different story in the second half, as the game started to open up. Home had a chance to double their lead on 52 minutes after Indra Sahdan and John Wilkinson had combined to set up Frederic Mendy for a header which came off the crossbar and it was a let-off for Hougang there.
Their pressure finally paid off in the 56th minute when Shotaro Ihata doubled his team’s lead with a good finish after breaking free of his marker to record his fifth goal in two games.
Hougang were determined not to leave without putting up a fight, as they pulled one back ten minutes from time through towering centre-back Stanislav Vidakovic. It was a textbook set-piece situation as Ante Barac floated a free-kick in which Vidakovic got the slightest touch to it and the ball just nestled into the bottom corner of the net past a stunned Lionel, who did not expect it.
There were some nervy moments for both sides as the game drew to a close, but it did not result in any goals scored as the scoreline remained intact.
Although unconvincing, this result meant that Home picked up their second victory on the trot and moved to the top of the S-League table; while Hougang are currently on a two-game winless streak after also suffering defeat against Balestier just a week ago.
Despite the defeat, Hougang head coach Nenad Bacina thought that his side deserved at least a point from today’s showing and gave credit to his players. He also felt that his team actually outplayed Home at certain points of the game, especially in the first half.
Home United head coach Lee Lim Saeng was, on the other hand, quick to admit that his team’s first-half performance was disappointing. While they picked up maximum points, he hopes that his team would not get too carried away and prepare for the next game.
Home will host Japanese outfit Albirex Niigata (S) in their next game on the 25th of March, while the Hougang United travel to the Clementi Stadium to take on last season’s S-League champions, Tampines Rovers on the same day. Both matches kick off at 7.45pm.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim (GK), Syaqir Sulaiman (Hasree Zais 45’), Lau Meng Meng (C), Stanislav Vidavokic, Ante Barac, Azhar Sairudin, Ridhwan Osman (Jordan Webb 57’), Fazli Jaffar, Faizal Amir, Mamadou Diallo, Nurhilmi Jasni (Sobrie Mazelan 70’) Unused subs: Ridzuan Hasan (GK), Khayrulhayat Jumat, Basit Hamid, Ignatius Ang
Home United: Lionel Lewis (GK), Jeremy Chiang (Firdaus Idros 25’), Kenji Arai, Shi Jia Yi (C), John Wilikinson, Shotaro Ihata, Frederic Mendy, Franklin Anzite, Qiu Li, Indra Sahdan, Nor Azli (Mazreswan Masturi 59’) Unused subs: Nazri Sabri (GK), Kairuldin Ishak, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Hafiz Nor