Hougang United vs Warriors FC: Pride at stake for stumbling duo

League Cup | Hougang Stadium | Thurs 21 Jul | 7.30pm

Billed as

Hougang Form

  • Hougang 0-2 Brunei DPMM (League Cup)
  • Tampines Rovers 6-4 Hougang (League Cup)
  • Hougang 1-3 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Geylang International 1-2 Hougang (S.League)
  • Hougang 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)

A chance to taste victory again.

The lowdown

Warriors FC and Hougang United both entered the League Cup with tentative hopes of going deep into the tournament, but that has been swiftly vanquished with one game left in Group A.

The uniformed giants leaked seven goals in two matches while struggling to find the back of the net at the other end, with Brunei DPMM smashing four past them before an understrength Tampines Rovers recorded a comfortable 3-0 win.

Defensive lapses have been costly, with head coach Razif Onn going so far as to label them “disastrous” after their last game.

They appear to be missing the presence of Singapore international Madhu Mohana and changes may be rung for this final group game.

Warriors Form

  • Warriors 0-3 Tampines Rovers (League Cup)
  • Brunei DPMM 4-0 Warriors (League Cup)
  • Hougang United 1-3 Warriors (S.League)
  • Warriors 2-0 Geylang International (S.League)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 3-2 Warriors (S.League)

Meanwhile, the Cheetahs arguably gave a better account of themselves despite also losing both games – scoring four times against Tampines in a 6-4 goal-fest, while two penalties were their undoing against DPMM.

Key players like Jozef Kaplan and Stipe Plazibat weren’t involved to their usual extent as fringe players were given opportunities to start, though they might be concerned at conceding a whopping four spot-kicks over 180 minutes.

While there is still the Plate trophy to play for – technically it still is a piece of silverware – both teams are likely to be more motivated by the chance to get back on the winning trail.

The Warriors have won just four times in 19 games in all competitions this season, joint-second least with Balestier Khalsa. Hougang have fared better with six, but have just one in their last 11 matches. 

Kaplan has largely been kept in cotton wool

Team News

First-choice goalkeeper Yazid Yasin should again miss out for the Warriors with a groin strain, while striker Jonathan Behe remains doubtful. Full-back Zulfadli Zainal is also still on the treatment table with a medial cruciate ligament injury.

Afiq Noor and Fairoz Hasan are suspended for Hougang, with defender Faiz Salleh still injured.

Madhu, Hafiz Nor (both Warriors), plus Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Nazari and M. Anumanthan (all Hougang), are all away on international duty.

Key Battle: Fumiya Kogure vs Nikola Rak

Last Five Meetings

  • 23/06/16 Hougang 1-3 Warriors (S.League)
  • 14/04/16 Warriors 0-1 Hougang (S.League)
  • 26/10/15 Warriors 2-0 Hougang (S.League)
  • 04/08/15 Hougang 4-1 Warriors (S.League)
  • 09/04/15 Warriors 1-0 Hougang (S.League)

This match could come down to a battle between the two playmakers, who lead the assists charts for their respective sides – Hougang’s Kogure with six and Rak with five.

The floppy-haired Japanese man is a crucial figure for his club this season and has at times been their best player by a mile, with his classy touches and distribution.

The 27-year-old loves a pop from range as well and is one of only six players to have scored in all three domestic competitions, along with Billy Mehmet, Masaya Jitozono, Rafael Ramazotti, Ken Ilsø and Niko Tokic.

His Croatian counterpart has not had the best of times in the League Cup so far but had been in good form in the league and will aim to get back to that level. The 28-year-old also has a keen eye for a pass and is not afraid to have a shot at goal.

If both play to the best of their abilities, fans will be in for a treat.

Rak could be crucial for Warriors

The Coaches

K. Balagumaran has stuck by his plan of testing out his squad players and is likely to continue the same policy, though he could be tempted to start his first-choice strike pairing of Kaplan and Plazibat.

His Warriors counterpart Razif Onn acknowledged there were deeper issues than just miscommunication in defence, but his options are limited. Poh Yi Feng and Emmeric Ong should return to the starting line-up, while there is likely to be personnel reshuffles at the back too.

Hougang coach K. Balagumaran

Facts and Figures

  • Warriors’ second-top scorer after 11-goal Behe is Nikola Rak, who has plundered three.
  • Warriors have lost 13 of their last 16 games in both Cups.
  • Only the Garena Young Lions have won less games than the Warriors this season, with a paltry two triumphs.
  • Three different goalkeepers have started for Warriors this season, the most of any team.
  • Hougang is the only team to have conceded penalties in this League Cup.
  • They also have the joint-most yellow cards with Geylang International (7) and the most red cards (2).
  • The last Cup meeting between these two was also in the League Cup. The Warriors winning 1-0 back in August 2012.
  • Hougang have conceded the most goals after the 80th minute of all sides with 10.

FourFourTwo Prediction

Goals have been hard to come by for the Warriors, so Hougang may well nick this for a morale-boosting victory. 2-1 to the hosts.

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo