League Cup • July 18, 2014
Hougang Pull Off Great Escape
Written By: Kenneth Ho
Hougang United made its way to the StarHub League Cup 2014 semi-finals after a superb comeback 2-1 win over Home United on Thursday evening at Bishan Stadium.
Lee Kwan Woo had given the Protectors the lead in the first half, and Home were close to holding on for a victory to send them to the tournament’s semi-finals for the first time since 2011.
However, two late goals in the space of three minutes saw Hougang overturning the score, with Geison Moura scoring the equaliser in the 83rd minute before Nurhilmi Jasni headed in the winning goal three minutes later.
Hougang coach Amin Nasir had vowed to approach the game cautiously, especially with his striker Diego Gama suspended for this tie and it proved so with only Geison Moura leading the line for the Cheetahs.
The game had barely settled when Home found the first chance of the game in the second minute.
After a long ball from Kwon Dakyung found Yasir Hanapi in the final third, the latter sprinted towards goal and attempted a chip from distance after spotting Fadhil Salim off his line, unfortunately his effort was off the mark.
Hougang proceeded to frustrate Home with their tight marking, and the Protectors struggled to find space beyond the Hougang’s defence.
This led to Home attempting shots from distance and one by Lee nearly found its way through in the 13th minute, when his snap-shot from the edge of the box had to be parried behind by Fadhil.
However, there was no denying the South Korean four minutes later, as he struck a curler past Fadhil to give his the lead.
Qiu Li could have doubled the lead in the 20th minute, when he pounced on a sloppy ball by Igor Ferreira to break free. However, despite finding himself open from three yards out, he dallied on the ball allowed Fadhil to close the angle down to smother the shot.
There were not many chances to speak of thereafter, as Hougang stuck to their game plan of going forward cautiously while keeping things tight at the back.
Chances continued to be a premium in the second half, after both sides squandered a glorious chance at the restart.
Bruno Castanheira snatched at his shot from close range before Moura replied in kind for Hougang only to see Home goalkeeper Shahril Jantan making an easy save.
After the hour mark, Lee made a shocking miss when he should have given his side more breathing space. After latching onto Qiu Li’s cutback, the midfielder contrived to drill the ball away from goal.
Those earlier misses by Home would prove to be their downfall¸ as the game burst into life in the last ten minutes with Hougang beginning their comeback in the 83rd minute.
With Song In-Young hauling down Shunsuke Nakatake in the box, the referee awarded the Cheetahs a penalty which Moura put powerfully past Shahril.
Home had barely recovered from that blow when they were dealt with another blow just three minutes later.
After Shahril had pushed away Moura’s pile-driver, he was let down by his defenders as no one marked Nurhilmi and allowed the midfielder to have a free header at goal from Lau Meng Meng’s cross.
It was desperate defending by Hougang towards the end, as Home rallied to make a response, and nearly did so immediately, only for Fazli Ayob to be denied in a one-on-one by Fadhil, while Kwon scooped the rebound over.
Substitute Indra Sahdan had a great chance to score when he raced behind the Hougang backline before being fouled right at the edge of the penalty.
The striker then curled the resulting free kick onto the post, before Castanheira blasted the rebound wide as the game came to an end, along with Home’s hopes of progression.