|Photo: ST He Photography|
Diallo Mamadou 25’
Ante Barac (OG) 42’
Hougang United coach Nenad Bacina expressed his disappointment at the refereeing in their 1-1 Great Eastern-YEO's S.League draw with Tampines Rovers on Friday evening.
In an enthralling encounter at the Hougang Stadium, the Cheetahs went in front in the 25th minute when Mamadou Diallo produced a moment of magic, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and skipping past a challenge before rifling a shot into the bottom corner.
However, an own-goal from Ante Barac four minutes before the break saw Tampines pull level, but Bacina's men continued to be the better side in the second half and were unlucky not to put away a series of decent chances.
And in the fourth minute of injury-time, Jordan Webb looked set to race through on goal after Stags defender Benoit Croissant had inexplicably slipped on the edge of the area, only for referee Abdul Malik Bashir to blow the final whiste.
The Hougang bench immediately erupted in furious protests but to no avail, and while he had calmed down by the time he arrived at the post-match press conference, Bacina made his disappointment clear for all to see.
"I think a high-ranking referee of this standard shouldn't be and cannot afford to make such a mistake," he said.
"It came at a crucial moment in the game and could affect the final standings on the table come the end of the season, which is why I view this as an absolute mistake.
"I expect high-level referees to be doing their job."
Nonetheless, the Croatian admitted he was pleased with the way his side had more than held their own against the defending league champions.
"I'm very proud of my team," Bacina added. "In the second half, we had at least three open chances.
"We came close with two headers and also hit the post. We also defended well and if I'm not mistaken,
Tampines didn't have a single shot in the second half.
"We deserved more than one point. People may say Tampines weren't at their best but that was the case because Hougang played very well."
The controversial end to the game was a huge let-off for the Stags, who had been second-best for much of the evening in new coach Tay Peng Kee's first game in charge since taking over from Steven Tan earlier in the month.
And the former Singapore international didn't hold back in his assessment of the side he had inherited from the man who had led the Clementi Stadium outfit to the title last term.
"The result wasn't too bad as we remain in contention [for the title] as long as we didn't lose," Tay said.
"Based on my first assessment, the team's fitness levels are below par. That is very obvious and it's a big problem.
"Not enough was done in pre-season and there's no point having the ability if you're going to get outrun all the time."
Tay opted to replace striker Sead Hadzibulic, one of Tampines' key players under Tan, at halftime and revealed he was far from pleased with what he had seen from the Serb.
"[Hadzibulic] wasn't performing and looked sluggish," he added. "In fact, I wanted to take him off earlier but I thought I'd give him until the break."
Following Friday's result, Tampines remain second on the table, a point behind leaders Albirex Niigata but with a game in hand. (SOURCE)