News • May 5, 2016
Gutsy Cheetahs Maintain Unbeaten Home Record
Written by: Sebastian Lim
Second-half substitute Iqbal Hussain came off the bench to cancel out Billy Mehmet’s first-half opener as ten-man Hougang United held Tampines Rovers to a 1-1 draw at Hougang Stadium on Wednesday evening.
With this result, the Cheetahs extended their unbeaten run at home to five games and remain third in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table while Tampines missed the chance to go joint-top with Albirex Niigata (S).
In a rather uneventful first-half, clear chances were few and far between as both sides struggled to impose themselves in the game.
Izzdin Shafiq drilled a low shot not far wide off Shahdan Sulaiman’s cutback in the second minute and Fazrul Nawaz blazed over from the edge of the area soon after.
Hougang then managed to conjure an opportunity of their own just after the half-hour mark, but defender Yusiskandar Yusop’s low drive went narrowly past the post.
The breakthrough would however come five minutes before half-time as the home side conceded a penalty and were reduced to ten men.
Wahyudi Wahid was shown a straight red after pulling down Hafiz Abu Sujad in the penalty area and Mehmet coolly slotted home the penalty to put the Stags in front.
A rejuvenated Hougang came out of the break determined to find a way back but nearly found themselves further behind in the 54th minute.
They however had goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid to thank as the 25-year-old rushed off his line to foil Fazrul after the Tampines forward had been slipped through by Shahdan.
The former LionsXII goalkeeper then produced an even better save on the hour mark, brilliantly denying Shahdan with his outstretched foot from point-blank to keep his side in the encounter.
Stags’ coach V.Sundramoorthy brought on his star player Jermaine Pennant in the final quarter of the match to add sparks in their attacking line. But his introduction was however was hampered with the hosts levelling the score four minutes later.
Iqbal pounced on a mistake by Irwan Shah and proceeded to beat his man before calmly slotting the ball past Izwan Mahbud to make it 1-1.
Sundramoorthy’s side almost went ahead again after the restart but it was Khairulhin who came out top again, claiming the ball off Mehmet who attempted to round him.
In the closing stages of the game, Hougang had to endure a late onslaught from Tampines who threw everything at them but they managed to stand firm for a share of the spoils.
Hougang United coach K Balagumaran: “In my opinion, I feel the players played well. I thought we created a lot of good chances and should have finished them off but Tampines defended well.
“I took a gamble with Iqbal and I’m glad it paid off – it was a good finish considering the pressure we were under. Also, brilliant goalkeeping by Khairulhin today. If not for him, we might have lost the game.”
Tampines Rovers coach V Sundramoorthy: “It wasn’t our best game today and I believe we were missing (Jordan) Webb and Jermaine Pennant who would have given us extra punch upfront.
“We were punished because we didn’t put away the chances we created. They are seasoned campaigners and they should now focus on the next game. What’s done cannot be undone and we have to move on.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Yusiskandar Yusop, Wahyudi Wahid, Delwinder Singh, Fairoz Hasan (Huzaifah Aziz 83’), M Anumanthan, Nur Na’iim Ishak (Iqbal Hussain 66’), Nurhilmi Jasni (Afiq Noor 83’), Jozef Kaplan (C), Stipe Plazibat
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Noh Rahman, Mustafic Fahrudin (C), Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Shahdan Sulaiman (Ismadi Mukhtar 66’), Yasir Hanapi, Izzdin Shafiq, Irwan Shah (Christopher Van Huizen 77’), Fazrul Nawaz (Jermaine Pennant 64’), Billy Mehmet