|Photo: Chris Harvey|
HARIMAU MUDA 0
Harimau Muda's bid to finish in the top three of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League were handed a small blow as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Hougang United.
In a fairly open game, both sides had their fair share of chances but the Young Tigers found their path to goal blocked by an inspired Fadhil Salim, who produced a string of outstanding saves to deny the visitors.
Nonetheless, it was the Cheetahs who came closest to scoring in the 84th minute when left-back Fazly Hasan sent a long-range freekick smashing back off the crossbar.
While the result was enough to take Harimau above Albirex Niigata into third place, they arguably have the tougher of the final-round fixtures as they take on leaders Tampines Rovers who are still vying for the title, while the White Swans visit 9th-placed Gombak United.
One minute in, they created their first opening when Irfan Fazail played a visionary pass through to Ahmad Hazwan who looked poised to fire a shot away, only to be denied by a great recovering tackle by Lau Meng Meng.
11 minutes later, it was Hougang's turn to carve out a chance when Azhar Sairudin embarked on a driving run through the middle and picked out Sobrie Mazelan, who shifted the ball out right to Jordan Webb. Unfortunately for the hosts, the Canadian delayed his shot for a second too long and allowed Shahrul Saad to weigh in with a vital block.
Hazwan, who entered Monday's game as Harimau's leading scorer with seven goals to his name, then had another sighting in the 19th minute when his snapshot was deflected into the side-netting, after he latched onto a left-wing cross by V. Kavichelvan and spun past Hasree Zais to create space for himself.
Fadhil Salim, who was having a relatively quiet outing up to that point, then reacted well in the 22nd minute to keep out a firm effort by Syahid Zaidon and two minutes later, he did even better to keep deny Hazwan, sticking out a leg in time to keep out the youngster's low shot.
Eight minutes before the break, the Cheetahs keeper came to his side's rescue again when he produced a remarkable reflex save to keep out a bullet header from point-blank range by Syahid, after he had been picked out unmarked inside the area by a brilliant first-time cross from D. Saarvindran.
Saarvindran then had a shooting chance of his own two minutes later when he found space down the right and cut inside Fazly Hasan, before unleashing a terrific left-footed shot that sailed just over the top corner.
A minute after the break, Hougang had a good opportunity when Webb rose highest inside the area but he was unable to capitalise on the opponents' slack marking, sending his header narrowly over the bar.
The visitors were then left wondering if they were ever going to find a way past Fadhil Salim in the 52nd minute, after the 29-year-old produced a fantastic save to keep out a bullet header from Hazwan at the back post, after Kavichelvan had picked out his team-mate with a terrific cross.
Eager to end their season on a winning note, the hosts started to display more intent and six minutes later, Mamadou Diallo went on a driving run through the middle and left two men in his wake before threading a past through to Sobrie. But just as he looked set to test Farhan Abu Bakar in the Harimau goal, Nazirul Naim slammed the door shut in his face with a perfectly-timed challenge inside the box.
Three minutes after the hour mark, Farhan was finally called into action when he did well to keep out an effort from Webb down low, after Nurhilmi Jasni had sliced open the visitors' backline with an incisive pass.
Ten minutes later, Saarvindran, who was giving the opposition all sorts of problems, sent another searching cross into the box but Hazwan just failed to reach it, when the slightest of touches would have probably seen him put the ball past a stranded Fadhil.
Six minutes from time, Hougang were extremely unlucky not to finally break the deadlock when Fazly went straight for goal with a 35-yard freekick and could only watch as it came back off the crossbar.
A minute later, Harimau had one final chance to steal all three points and bolster their hopes of a top-three finish when Saarvidran found space down the right and skipped past Fazly, before smashing an effort towards goal. However, Fadhil once again produced a stunning save and parried the shot wide, leaving both sides to settle for a share of the spoils.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Lau Meng Meng, Hasree Zais, Syaqir Sulaiman, Fazly Hasan, Jordan Webb, Faizal Amir, Azhar Sairudin (Farhan Rahmat 75'), Fazli Jaffar (Nurhilmi Jasni 46'), Sobrie Mazelan, Mamadou Diallo (Ignatius Ang 61').
Harimau Muda: Farhan Abu Bakar, Raphi Azizan (Ferris Danial 78'), Affize Faisal, Shahrul Saad, Nazirul Naim, Azzizan Nordin (Amer Saidin 61'), Irfan Fazail, D. Saarvindran, Syahid Zaidon, V. Kavichelvan (Wan Zaharulnizam 53'), Ahmad Hazwan. (SOURCE)