S.League | Hougang Stadium | Thur 7 Apr| 7.30pm
The battle of the dark horses.
Hougang United Form
- Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang United (S.League)
- Hougang United 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 1-3 Hougang United (S.League)
- Hougang United 0-0 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
- Tampines Rovers 4-1 Hougang United (S.League)
Geylang International Form
- Geylang International 2-2 Warriors (S.League)
- Geylang International 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
- Geylang International 0-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 0-2 Geylang International (S.League)
- Geylang International 1-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
As with Leicester City’s dogged run towards the league title in the English Premier League, a fairytale is the average football fan’s most subscribed thrill.
Anyone looking for a Leicester-like underdog triumph in the S.League will immediately point to either Hougang United or Geylang International as their pick for the possible dark horses of the season.
While Home United, Warriors FC, defending champions Brunei DPMM and title favourites Tampines Rovers were all high up on the bookmakers’ list of title winners, Hougang and Geylang were at best, the outside bets.
But out on the pitch, Hougang and Geylang, just like the Foxes, have let their football do the talking.
Hougang have already enjoyed a short stint at the top of the table, but they relinquished top spot last week after a 2-0 defeat to Albirex Niigata (S) while the Eagles are still unbeaten in the league after six matches.
Both sides have also had plenty of players who are in fine form, with three players from each side making the FFT Team of the month in March.
Out on the terraces, the clubs are also well supported with the Ultra Eagles and the Hougang Hools never failing to let their voices be heard, cajoling and cheering the players on.
Will this encounter show us who the real dark horse is?
A major blow for the Eagles will be the absence of Japanese defender Yuki Ichikawa, who limped off with a groin injury in the 2-2 draw with the Warriors last week.
Shariff Samat and Daniel Bennett will pair up at the heart of the defence but Yuki’s absence could prove to be decisive as the centre-back has been crucial to the three clean sheets the side have kept this season.
Hougang also have injuries to their defensive department with full-back Ali Hudzaifi out with a long-term injury while Delwinder Singh, who featured in FFT’s Team of the month recently, is also ruled out due to injury.
Key Battle: Raihan Rahman vs Isa Halim
Two former LionsXII players will go head to head in midfield in this encounter when Raihan Rahman and Isa Halim line up at the opposite sides of the field. All signs point to a match where the battle will most likely be fought out in the middle of the park.
Under Fandi Ahmad, both players competed for the same spot in midfield whilst at LionsXII and Isa would often be left on the bench and made to watch as Raihan would do the dirty work in the LionsXII midfield.
The battle of the hatchet men will be an interesting one to witness and whoever comes out on top will be giving their respective side a huge lift.
Past Five meetings
- Hougang 2-2 Geylang (S.League, Nov '15)
- Hougang 2-2 Geylang (League Cup, June '15)
- Hougang 1-0 Geylang (S.League, May '15)
- Hougang 0-0 Geylang (S.League, Mar '15)
- Hougang 4-0 Geylang (S.League, Oct '14)
Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani and Hougang’s K. Balagumaran are largely similar in their tactical approach as both coaches like to keep it compact at the back and launch quick decisive attacks through the wing.
In Geylang’s last match, their first-half tactics of bypassing the middle and attacking through the flanks did not quite work out well for them and as such, the second half saw more passes through the middle. It is likely that the Eagles will deploy the same strategy that worked in this tie.
As for Balagumaran, midfield is where he would want his side to excel, in especially with Fumiya Kogure’s superior technical ability and Anumanthan’s strength.
Facts and Figures
The Eagles have not won against Hougang in any of the sides’ last six matches
Former Cheetah Carlos Delgado is the only player from Geylang to have scored more than once this season with the rest of the six goals coming from six different players
Jozef Kaplan will be returning to face his former side as do Wahyudi Wahid, Delgado, Shariff Samat and Fairoz Hassan
Hougang United 3 Geylang International 3. Both coaches would not want this but expect an extremely open encounter with goals flowing at both ends.