News Singapore Premier League • June 22, 2018
Singapore Premier League Preview: Buoyed by first win, Hougang eye DPMM upset
Nurhilmi Jasni (left) scored the goal that ended Hougang United FC’s win-less streak.
SINGAPORE, 22 JUNE 2018 – A belated first win of the season has lifted spirits in the Hougang United FC camp, but their next task will be a difficult one as they take on Brunei DPMM FC at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub on Sunday evening, 24 June. The Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) match will kick off at 5.30pm.
BACKGROUND At long last, Hougang’s season finally got the lift-off that they desperately needed with their first victory in 11 tries last weekend in a hard-fought 1-0 away victory over Balestier Khalsa FC.
Philippe Aw paid the price for a poor start to the season with three draws and seven defeats, making way for a new management team that saw Clement Teo appointed as Caretaker Head Coach and Salim Moin roped in as his Assistant.
The duo got off to an auspicious start as the Cheetahs put up a resolute defensive display – coupled with some goalkeeping heroics from Khairulhin Khalid – and managed to prevail through a superb second-half header from Captain Nurhilmi Jasni.
The result gave them a boost in their bid to avoid finishing bottom and they are now just five points behind second-from-bottom Geylang International FC, with two games in hand.
A difficult clash against DPMM at the iconic Singapore Sports Hub on Sunday night is up next and Nurhilmi wants more of the same as they face the Bruneians for the first time this season.
“There are no drastic changes (despite Aw’s dismissal); it’s just about getting the confidence back and enjoying our football, which Coach Clement has emphasised on,” the 31-year-old said.
“To be honest, it wasn’t our best performance (against Balestier) but our objective was to win and we did it. It’s all about positive thinking now in the dressing room and we definitely want to collect more points to climb the table.
“DPMM’s playing with a lot of confidence this year… But if we keep our belief and stay focused, we have every chance of stopping them. It’ll be a great experience for all of us to play on a great pitch and we can admire it as much as we want, but the main objective to get a good result for the team.”
DPMM will not be short on confidence, having plundered six goals to defeat Geylang International FC 6-2 away the last time out.
The front three of Mojtaba Mollasaraei, Volodymyr Priyomov and Adi Said has looked good this season, combining to devastating effect and finding themselves on the scoresheet against the Eagles.
While the Wasps are now in fifth with 14 points from nine games, they can close the gap between them and second-placed Tampines Rovers FC to just two points if they win their two games in hand.
Goalkeeper Wardun Yussof believes his side is poised for a strong finish to the season, with 10 out of their 14 remaining games – after playing Hougang – scheduled at home.
“Of course, playing at home is a great advantage for us and we just need to keep focused for each game as it comes,” said the 36-year-old.
“Indeed, our attack looks great with the imports linking up well with the locals. Let’s not forget we also have Azwan Ali (Rahman) supporting them. We just have to keep playing our style of football. We have been more organized and more focused in fitness (under Brazilian coach Rene Weber).”
Based on head-to-head records, DPMM are definitely the favourites to win this one, having lost just twice in their last nine meetings.
Hougang will miss young centre-back Illyas Lee due to a one-match suspension, while attackers Iqbal Hussain and Shahfiq Ghani remain doubtful after their recent injuries.
New signing Syaqir Sulaiman will, however, be available as he cleared the league’s mandatory Yo-yo test on Thursday.
Meanwhile for DPMM, first-choice goalkeeper Haimie Nyaring will serve the final match of his two-game suspension so Wardun should deputise for him in between the sticks.
23/09/17: Hougang 1-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
19/09/17: DPMM 1-4 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
02/04/17: DPMM 2-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
26/08/16: Hougang 1-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
17/07/16: Hougang 0-2 DPMM – League Cup
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR
Fareez Farhan – Hougang
He has not started many games this season, but one can bank on Fareez to make an impact whenever he is on the field. The 23-year-old came off the bench to deliver the inswinging corner for Nurhilmi’s match-winner against Balestier. Expect him to be thrown into the fray again if the going gets tough for the Cheetahs.
Adi Said – DPMM
Much of the attention has gone to Priyomov this season, but it is Adi who has been producing the goods in recent matches. The effervescent 27-year-old had a blinder against Geylang where he scored twice and assisted two more goals. If he continues in the same manner, the Cheetahs defence will be in for a long night.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID
Hougang midfielder Nurhilmi: “It feels great to be back playing as I’ve been working hard to get back onto the pitch. But I expect no favours; whoever works hard and are committed should play, it’s up to the coach to decide. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.
“It’s great to have Syaqir back with Hougang. I strongly feel that our team is lacking in experience, so having him back is a good addition as he can help to guide our younger players.”
DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof: “The team’s in good shape now after Ramadan as we are back to our routine training. For myself, it wasn’t easy (to play against Geylang) after such a long time out and it’s not my decision whether I get to play or not. But I’m always ready if I’m needed.
“I’m excited for this game as it’ll be my first time playing at the National Stadium of Singapore. I’m lucky because we was supposed to have a game against Young Lions on 18th June but it got postponed.”