The Unofficial Hougang United FC Supporters Blog

Friday, March 16, 2012

Protectors go top of the table after a narrow victory over resilient Cheetahs

Photo: Chris Harvey
Stanislave Vidakovic 80'

Qiu Li 42', Shotaro Ihata 56'

After a stuttering start to the season, the 2012 Singapore Cup winners seem to be on the right track recording their second consecutive win.

A goal apiece in each half by Singapore international Qiu Li and current S-League top scorer Shotaro Ihata was enough to ensure three points in the bag for Home United, even though Hougang managed to pull a late goal back through Stanislav Vidakovic.

Home United meant business from the get-go as they started the match with Qiu Li, Indra Shadan, Frederic Mendy and Shotaro Ihata leading the frontline, versus Hougang’s one man strikeforce of Mamadou Diallo.

However, the Home forwards failed to make much headway and their first real attempt on goal came only on 15 minutes, when Ihata’s header missed the mark after a good cross from Indra from the right flank. Five minutes later, Ihata’s strike partner Mendy did not fare any better when his feeble long-range shot failed to trouble Hougang keeper Fadhil Salim.

While Home sought to seize the initiative, Hougang adopted a patient 'soak and strike' approach to the game.

The Cheetahs almost scored on 20 minutes when an excellent volley from midfielder Azhar Sairudin shaved the top of the bar.

Four minutes later their counter-attack came to naught once again, as Diallo’s shot went way off the mark after the striker had skillfully turned away from three Home defenders.

By this time, Home coach Lee Lim Saeng had seen enough and decided to make an early tactical switch merely 25 minutes into the first-half, bringing on midfielder Firdaus Idros for defender Jeremy Chiang.

Photo: Zeng Liwei
This move paid off in the 40th minute when an attacking move from the left flank involving Jiayi and Qiu Li caused confusion in the Cheetahs’ defence and Mendy won a penalty for Home after a foul by Hougang defender Syaqir Sulaiman. Qiu Li duly converted the spotkick and gave the Protectors a lead going into the dressing room.

As the teams regrouped after half-time, the second-half bizarrely started with Home United having only ten players on the pitch. Defender Franklin Anzite appeared late and could only rejoin the action after a good three minutes.

Home United sought to build on its slender lead, and almost scored on 53 minutes through Mendy, only for his header to be denied by an excellent fingertip save from Hougang keeper Fadli.

The Protectors’ incessant pressure on the Hougang goal eventually paid off on 56 minutes, as Japanese hotshot Ihata scored after displaying neat footwork and an excellent turn to score his tenth goal of the campaign.

In an attempt to change things, Hougang coach Nenad Bacina introduced star forward Jordan Webb. The Canadian’s introduction sparked some life into the Cheetahs as they sought to rescue something from the game.
Photo: Chris Harvey
The pressure from the Cheetahs was eventually rewarded when they pegged back with a goal after an unmarked Vidakovic guided the ball into the net on 80 minutes following an excellent free-kick delivery from Ante Barac.

Home sought to restore their two goal advantage but were denied eight minutes from the end by a valiant goal-line clearance courtesy of Vidakovic from Ihata’s shot, ensuring the game would go to the wire in the dying minutes. In the end, however, Home survived the onslaught, and secured three points to become the new League leaders.

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