News • March 20, 2016
Cheetahs Leap To Summit After Edging Out Tigers
Written by: Aysha Ridzuan
Hougang United rose to the summit of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2016 table after eking out a narrow 1-0 win over Balestier Khalsa at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night.
Stipe Plazibat’s goal in the second period was enough to help the Cheetahs claim maximum points and leave the Tigers still searching for their first win in the league this season.
In a dominating first-half, the hosts should have been in the lead at the break if not for their inability to convert their chances.
The Cheetahs almost broke the deadlock in the early minutes of the game when Plazibat advanced into the 18-yard box from the halfway line and fired a shot at goal which was charged down by Tigers custodian, Zaiful Nizam.
Hougang threatened again when their Slovakian captain Jozef Kaplan sent in a dangerous cross into the box from the right-flank, but Fairoz Hassan ballooned the ball wide from six-yards out.
Balestier had their best chance in the game when Sheikh Abdul Hadi cut the ball back for Smajovic Sadin at the byline and the Croatian’s cross found Hazzuwan Halim. However, the midfielder’s effort was easily gathered by Cheetahs custodian Khairuldin Khalid.
A pin-point cross from Kaplan almost found Plazibat on the half-hour mark, but Nurullah Hussein headed the ball over the bar, before Fumiya Kogure tried an ambitious 30-yard drive which went wide of the mark.
The second-half started similarly as the first, with Hougang continued to pressure Balestier and controlling possession of the ball.
The Cheetahs thought they had taken the lead in the 56th minute when M.Anumanthan’s cross from the right found Raihan Rahman on the edge of the box and the former LionsXIl midfielder took the ball down with his first touch, before firing a volley towards goal with his second.
However, Raihan’s shot was not powerful enough to trouble Zaiful as the goalkeeper made an easy catch.
Another glorious chance went abegging for the Cheetahs minutes later when Kaplan met Raihan’s cross but sent his shot high and wide despite being in a good position.
The visitors almost took the lead against the run of play on the hour mark when Sadin dazzled his way to the edge of the box and slide a tempting pass to Hazzuwan. But the latter sent his shot inches past the far post.
The Cheetahs finally took the lead ten minutes from time when Anumanthan’s free-kcik bounced off Kaplan and onto Plazibat, who needed no further invitation to head home his fifth goal of the season
Hougang should have doubled their lead in stoppage time, but substitute Huzaifah Aziz’s shot at goal went narrowly wide after doing well to cut in from the right flank.
Hougang United coach K.Balagumaran: “It feels good to be at the top of the league but the season is still long. Before the game I told the players we had a chance to be on top and we achieved what we wanted. It’s still early but at least we can enjoy the moment even if it’s temporary.
“I am happy with the three points but not with the performance. To be fair to Balestier, we were quite lucky.”
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic: “We started slow in the game. We were lucky to keep a clean sheet in the first half because Hougang created plenty of chances.
“We improved in the second half and had our chances. I think we were close to winning but normally when you missed your chances, that’s when you will get punished.”
Hougang United FC: Khairuldin Khalid (GK), Delwinder Singh, Faiz Salleh, Wahyudi Wahid, Fairoz Hasan (Huzaifah Aziz 69’), M.Anumanthan, Fumiya Kogure (Afiq Noor 90’), Nazrul Nazari, Raihan Rahman, Jozef Kaplan © (Nur Nai’im Ishak 83’), Stipe Plazibat
Balestier Khalsa FC: Zaiful Nizam, Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Nurullah Hussein, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Emir Lotinac, Smajovic Sadin, Fazli Ayob, Fadhil Noh (Jamil Ali 39’), Hazzuwan Halim (Syafiq Zainal 71’), Gary Loo (Miroslav Kristic 85’)