Valiant Young Lions hold Hougang to 1-1 draw

Garena Young Lions avoided defeat for the second game in a row after holding Hougang United to a 1-1 draw on Thursday evening at Hougang Stadium. 

The game witnessed plenty of scoring opportunities but both teams' goalkeepers deserved plenty of credit for the saves they made.

The first goal came when Afiq Noor was penalised for a handball and Fareez Farhan duly converted the resulting penalty in the 15th minute.

However, the developmental side's joy was short-lived as the Cheetahs found the equaliser five minutes later.

A wonderful move started by Jozef Kaplan released an overlapping Nazrul Nazari and the latter's cross from inside the box was met by Nurhilmi Jasni, who bulged the back of the net with his drive.

That was to be the last goal of the match, but in place there was a superb display of goalkeeping performances.

In the 26th minute, Hougang could have gone ahead but Zharfan got down low to deny Stipe Plazibat after the forward's one-two with Kaplan.

The goalkeeper was at it again just before the break, after Fairoz Hasan found Kaplan on the counter-attack. Facing the Hougang captain in a one-on-one situation, Zharfan made a point-blank save to send both sides going into the break level at 1-1.

Zharfan's opposite counterpart Khairulhin Khalid got in the act four minutes after the restart as he denied Hami Syahin at the near post after the forward latched onto Muhaimin Suhaimi's cross.

On the hour mark, it was Zharfan's turn again as he parried a fierce drive by Kaplan after the forward had ran onto Nurhilmi's lobbed pass.

Khairulhin topped Zharfan's save in the 70th minute, clawing away Shannon Stephen's powerful header from the bottom corner.

In the final ten minutes, Hougang piled on the pressure but they just could not beat Zharfan.

The goalkeeper once again made a point-blank save from Kaplan, after the striker had received a cross from Iqbal Hussain in the 82nd minute.

Four minutes later, the goalkeeper was at full stretch to tip away Plazibat's header from the top corner.

The young custodian was nearly beaten in the dying embers of the game, but Iqbal's curling effort from inside the box was inches wide from goal.

Young Lions coach V. Selvaraj was pleased his side avoided defeat once again, after they beat Warriors 3-1 in the previous match.

But he added the team cannot afford to fall complacent, despite upsetting the odds once again.

"Overall we did what we were supposed to do, we created chances... the whole team had an excellent game," Selvaraj said.

"You are only as good as your last game or training...even if we won the last game it doesn't mean you can win the next game, the work rate must still be there."

Hougang coach K.Balagumaran on the other hand was at loss for words, as his side went four games without a win.

However, he backed his team to recover from this latest setback as they play an in-form Home United next in the Singapore Cup.

The Protectors have won four on the trot, including a 5-0 demolition of reigning champions Brunei DPMM on the same evening.

"We created chances and we could have scored... I just can't find fault with my team," he said finally, after initially struggling to address the press.

"We need to work on the mental part; they need to stay strong. They are under pressure now, so we have got to work on the mental aspect

"Home is not an easy game and we need to work extra hard."