|Photo: Chris Harvey|
Fazli Jaffar 57'
A stalemate at the Hougang Stadium meant that the Cheetahs missed their chance to exact revenge for their RHB Singapore Cup quarter-final exit to Gombak United.
It was the perfect opportunity for Hougang United to get something over their Cup nemesis, Gombak United when the two teams faced off at Hougang Stadium on Sunday night.
However, the absence of playmaker Ante Barac, coupled with playing out the last 33 minutes with 10 men, proved just a little too much for them in what ended as a stalemate.
In the absence of aggressive centre back Walid Lounis, the visitors pushed Ismail Yunos infield from his usual right-back role to partner skipper Obadin Aikhena. The pair were colossal at the back, as witnessed from the number of Hougang deadball situations they repelled in the first half.
Without Barac, leftback Fazly Hasan, midfielder Azhar Sairudin and forward Mamadou Diallo took over at setpieces but it was evident that the trio could not replicate the Croatian's deadball excellence for the home side.
Diallo's 25-yarder whizzed wide on six minutes before Azhar's effort from five yards nearer was saved awkwardly by Gombak goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam's legs.
The latter tried from range again two minutes later, but Ismail showed his commitment by throwing himself bravely at the leather.
Meanwhile, Gombak spent their first half peppering shots over the bar.
Julien Durand thumped two efforts wildly over while Mustaqim Manzur's curler and Fairoz Hasan's volley similarly cleared Hougang 'keeper Fadhil Salim's bar.
The first card of the game went to Fazli Jaafar late in the first half as his late lunge at Hafiz Rahim earned him a booking from referee Muhd Taqi.
That would set the tone for an eventful second half for the left winger, which lasted all of 12 minutes.
On 51 minutes, he raced onto an excellent through ball from Jordan Webb and whipped in a searching cross for the lurking Nurhilmi Jasni at the far post only for the latter's effort to hit the bar.
Six minutes later, his evening officially ended with an illegal challenge on Durand.
Despite playing out the last half hour with one man lesser, Hougang looked the more likely of the two teams to score the all-deciding goal.
Fazly tried one from range which was deflected to safety and Nurhilmi cracked one from 25 yards which looped just over, while Diallo's low 30-yarder was tipped wide by Zaiful.
Durand nearly earned the last laugh for Gombak on 73 minutes as his howitzer from 30 yards beat Fadhil, but not his right-hand post to ensure that both sides left the game with a share of the spoils. (SOURCE)