Fazrul Nawaz debut fails to stop Hougang from defeat to Young Lions
Hougang United’s hope of climbing away from the bottom of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) took a dent after being beaten 3-0 by Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday evening.
Hami Syahin struck in the first half, before further goals from Haiqal Pashia and Ikhsan Fandi cemented a thoroughly well-deserved victory.
It was an entertaining first half to behold, with both teams throwing caution to the wind and having a real go.
But of the two teams, the hosts carved out the better chances and were desperately unlucky not to take the lead in the 17th minute. Ifwat Ismail found himself free in the box and shot on the turn but Khairulhin Khalid was able to charge down his attempt.
The Young Lions did not have to wait that long to have another chance though, and in the 23rd minute, they made sure to go one up.
Ifwat spotted Prakash Raj’s run and released him with a superb ball down the right. The latter sent the ball across the face of goal and Hami ghosted in between two defenders to finish off from close range.
The hosts had their hearts in their mouths minutes later, as a Hougang corner nearly made its way into goal after Syed Firdaus Hassan’s attempted clearance went awry.
It then should have been 2-0 in the 39th minute, with Joshua Pereira slipping a through ball to Rusyaidi Salime but the winger failed to beat Khairulhin in a one-on-one situation.
It was a different game altogether in the second half, with the tempo slowing down after Young Lions preferred to sit back and play on the counter in order to protect their lead.
It nearly paid off on several occasions, but Hougang were alert enough to snuff out any balls that came into their box.
Both Pereira and Hami had opportunities to make their headers count, but neither could convert those chances as the Young Lions hung onto their slender lead.
The action came to a standstill until the last ten minutes of the game where a red card was dished out and two goals were scored.
In the 81st minute, Shahfiq Ghani’s cross-shot was palmed away from goal and the resulting corner came to nothing for the Cheetahs, other than leading to a break by Zulqarnaen Suzliman.
The midfielder was about to beat the entire Hougang backline before Jordan Vestering came in with a cynical challenge and was given his marching orders.
The Young Lions clearly relished their numerical superiority and duly took advantage to score twice.
First, Pereira’s cut-back was dummied by Ikhsan and Haiqal was left with an easy finish from close range in the 83rd minute.
Ikhsan would score a similar effort deep into injury time, this time finishing off Zulqarnaen’s ball to him to place the icing on the cake.
Young Lions face a daunting task next as they take on champions-elect Albirex Niigata FC (S) on 18 July while Hougang will face Warriors FC on 1 August.
Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “We came here to play and with a mission to get a point because we are both bottom of the table. I thought we did very well with an under-strength team. It was a good result for us, we really pressed them, we defended very well, of course they have some good players but we tried to close them down today. Joshua and Firdaus did a very good job in closing down the midfield today.
“Today we were very competitive. It was a very good game for both sides. We already knew they were going to play the long ball so we were also concerned about Fazrul because he has a good scoring record but the boys did their best so it is a huge relief for us.
“Yes (they played the game plan to perfection today.) In the last few minutes, we had an advantage and we had practiced our counter attacks yesterday. Today I told Hami he will score and he scored! Overall we are quite happy.
Hougang United FC Caretaker Coach Clement Teo: “What’s there to think when you have lost 3-0. Naturally we are very disappointed, but it happens. As a caretaker coach, I take full responsibility of the loss.
“What was lacking the tactical awareness. Yes, we had three young midfield players, but I felt they could have done the job. Unfortunately, in terms of tactical aspect, they were a bit lacking. Defensively we were a bit shaky. As you can see in the second half, we managed more possession, we were moving the ball around more freely.
“In a game of football, we can’t have players going into the game and after 45 minutes, we are down and have to try and chase the game. But at the end of the day it was a decision I made and I am responsible for it as a coach.
“In terms of disappointment, in a game like this, what more can I ask for. You could see my players are in tears. It only shows how much they really wanted it. But a loss is a loss, I will definitely want to see what we can do.”
Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Joshua Pereira (C), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Syahrul Sazali, Hami Syahin (Ikhsan Fandi 80’), Syed Firdaus Hassan, Prakash Raj (Amer Hakeen 84’), R. Aaravin, Taufiq Muqminin, Jacob Mahler, Ifwat Ismail (Haiqal Pashia 51’)
Hougang United FC: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Fabian Kwok (C), Iqbal Hussain, Illyas Lee, Justin Hui (Syukri Bashir 81’), Faiz Salleh, Muhaimin Suhaimi (Shafiq Ghani 69’), Amir Zalani (Antoine Viterale 74’), Syqair Sulaiman, Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Vestering