S.League | Hougang Stadium | Wed 4 May | 7.30pm
A stern test of Hougang United’s abilities to keep up their unbeaten home run in 2016.
There has been much talk about Hougang being S.League’s Leicester City, with last season’s wooden spoonists starting the year in sparkling form – going top on two occasions before dropping to third place.
The platform for their success so far has to be their strong home form, with the Cheetahs picking up 10 out of a possible 12 points on offer at their own backyard.
Hougang United Form
- Home United 3-2 Hougang (S.League)
- Warriors FC 0-1 Hougang (S.League)
- Hougang 3-1 Geylang International (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang (S.League)
- Hougang 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
Tampines Rovers Form
- Tampines 4-2 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Sheikh Jamal DC 3-2 Tampines (S.League)
- Geylang International 0-1 Tampines (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Tampines (S.League)
- Ceres La Salle 2-1 Tampines (AFC Cup)
With the Hougang HOOLs (Hougang’s unofficial supporters’ club) often turning up in full voice, Hougang Stadium has been transformed into a fortress of sorts this season.
However, their unbeaten home record will be on the line when they host the star-studded Tampines Rovers side on Wednesday night.
The Stags have yet to live up to their pre-season tag of being title favourites, with most of their wins coming via one-goal margins.
Off-the-field distractions regarding their cash flow issues have done little to help their cause on it, as they recently fell to a shock 3-2 defeat to Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club.
The five-time league champions did well to bounce back last weekend with a 4-2 comeback victory against Warriors FC, but concerns about their defensive frailties remain. For the second game in a row, their backline fell asleep and let in cheap goals.
They surely have to improve on their leaky ways if they want to take down a plucky Hougang side and continue their pursuit of Albirex Niigata (S) in the S.League title race.
Star signing Jermaine Pennant looked fit after coming on as a substitute against the Warriors and should return to the starting eleven for the Stags, while V.Sundramoothy will hope Jordan Webb can return to fitness in time to face his former side.
As for Hougang, left-back Faiz Salleh and midfield hard-man Raihan Rahman are ruled out through suspension.
The most likely scenario to occur will be the return of Delwinder Singh in central defence to pair up with Yusiskandar Yusop, freeing up M. Anumanthan to fill Raihan’s void in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile either Khairulnizam Jumahat or Wahyudi Wahid may fill in on the left side of defence, with whoever starting likely to face former Arsenal and Liverpool player Pennant directly.
Key Battle: M. Anumanthan vs Shahdan Sulaiman
Likely to be restored to his favoured central midfield role, Anumanthan’s aggression and ball-winning abilities will come in handy as he faces off against Tampines playmaker Shahdan.
The latter has started every game since returning to the Stags from the LionsXII and is responsible for threading through passes for forwards Billy Mehmet and Fazrul Nawaz to score.
The former LionsXII colleagues face off again, with Hougang’s K Balagumaran keen to avenge the 4-1 defeat at Jurong West earlier in the season.
The affable gaffer has earned the respect of many for his unorthodox method of incorporating yoga as part of his side’s training schedule – something which has clearly helped the Cheetahs’ cause.
Meanwhile Tampines’ V Sundramoorthy has done relatively well to manage his side’s resources - with his side not just heavily dependent on Pennant, but also able to utilise the likes of Christopher van Huizen and Hafiz Sujad to good effect.
Last Five Meetings
- Tampines 4-1 Hougang (S.League, Feb ’16)
- Tampines 1-0 Hougang (S.League, Oct ‘15)
- Hougang 0-3 Tampines (S.League, Jul ’15)
- Tampines 2-0 Hougang (S.League, Mar ’15)
- Tampines 1-1 Hougang (S.League, Jun ’14)
Facts and Figures
- Tampines have the edge on the overall head-to-heads, winning 22 times out of 29 encounters. Hougang won just five times, while the other three games ended up in draws.
- Tampines have only failed to score once in 16 matches in all competitions this season.
- Hougang have yet to lose at home this season, with three wins and one draw in four matches so far.
- Hougang’s last win against Tampines came in April 2014, where they scored three goals in the first 12 minutes in a 4-2 victory.
Hougang are tough to beat at home, but Tampines should have the quality to grind out another victory. 2-1 to the Stags.