News • July 26, 2016

The New Paper League Cup 2016: Cheetahs Edge Out Unlucky Tigers To Reach Plate Final


Written by: Ryan Low

Hougang United is within reach of lifting their first piece of silverware after overcoming Balestier Khalsa 2-1 in The New Paper League Cup Plate semi-finals at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday night.

Iqbal Hussain was the hero for the Cheetahs as he scored a late winner to settle the game, after Balestier’s Miroslav Kristic had cancelled out Fumiya Kogure’s first-half opener.

Balestier utterly dominated the first half, peppering the Hougang goal with numerous shots but was unable to find a way past Ridhuan Barudin.

Right before half time, centre back Nurullah Hussein clumsily brought down Iqbal on the edge of the area – with Hougang taking full advantage of the resulting dead ball.

2015 S.League Player of the Year Kogure stepped up to deliver a stunning curler that left Balestier goalkeeper Naqiuddin Nodin rooted to the spot.

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic reacted by throwing on Hazzuwan Halim for the ineffectual Syafiq Zainal shortly after the break and that substitution paid instant dividends.

In the 55th minute, Hazzuwan found space on the right flank to whip in a brilliant cross for Kristic to flick home a header past Ridhuan to restore parity.

The Tigers kept going and almost made it 2-1 on 72 minutes when Jamil connected well with Kristic’s deep cross, but Ridhuan was on hand to pull off a neat reflex save.

Their hopes of winning took a dent shortly later though, with Gary Loo stretchered off after getting an unfortunate high boot from Nurhilmi Jasni.

Having already made all three substitutions, they had to play out the reminder of the game with a man lesser. That numerical disadvantage proved to be the difference as Hougang hit them with a sucker punch 10 minutes from time.

Iqbal superbly took down Yusiskandar Yusop’s diagonal ball, cut inside his marker before unleashing a powerful drive from 18 yards out that proved to be too hot for Naqiuddin to handle.

That proved to be the match-winner as Hougang went on to seal a Plate Final clash with Geylang International.

Hougang United head coach K Balagumaran: “I’m quite happy with our performance, especially from our fringe players. I was happy to see more of (Nur) Na’iim (Ishak) and (Khairul)Nizam Jumahat after a disappointing first game against Tampines (Rovers) in this tournament.

“Iqbal also did well by taking on players. I really hope he can be called up for the Suzuki Cup because the national team don’t have a striker like him. I’m doing individual clips for him to convince Sundram to take him.

“Now I’ve a good headache with Wahyudi (Wahid) and Fairoz (Hasan) coming back (from suspension) for the Plate final. If we can win the Plate and finish top three in the league, it will be a great achievement for the club.”

Balestier Khalsa head coach Marko Kraljevic: “It’s unbelievable to lose this game. In the first-half, we went behind their defence and had a lot of chances, but was not really clinical in front of goal.

“Then in the last minute of the half, we conceded. It was an unnecessary foul by Nurullah. In the second half, we equalised and I have the feeling that we can win. But we had to play with 10 players after Gary came off and we concede again.

“But overall it’s a good tournament for us, apart from the Albirex game where we did not get close to them. The team is scoring and improving upfront, which is good to see.”

Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Yusiskandar Yusop, Delwinder Singh, Jozef Kaplan (C), Fumiya Kogure, Nur Na’iim Ishak (Huzaifah Aziz 75’), Iqbal Hussain, Raihan Rahman, Afiq Noor (Samuel Benjamin 86’), Khairulnizam Jumahat, Faliq Sudhir (Nurhilmi Jasni 64’)

Balestier Khalsa: Naqiuddin Nodin (GK), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Nurullah Hussein, Miroslav Kristic, Fadhil Noh (C) (Jamil Ali 70’), Syafiq Zainal (Hazzuwan Halim 51’), Ho Wai Loon, Danial Farhan Tan (Gary Loo 70’), Sadin Smajovic, Zulkhair Mustaffa