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Hougang get first win in 11 against Balestier in ill-tempered match

Hougang United rejoice as post-Philippe Aw era starts with first win in 11 attempts against Balestier Khalsa at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday.

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Hougang United’s wait for their first win of their Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign is finally over after an industrious performance helped them to a 1-0 win over Balestier Khalsa on Sunday.

Nurhilmi Jasni scored a captain’s goal for the Cheetahs in the second half, as Hougang ended their 13-game winless streak stretching back to November last year.

However, they remain rooted at the bottom of the table and are five points behind second-bottom Geylang International. Balestier on the other hand dropped a spot to fourth following Home United’s win over Geylang.

Both sides took time to settle into the game and it was only on 16 minutes before a shot – Jordan Vestering’s free-kick from just outside the penalty box that flew narrowly wide – was registered in the game.

Less than a minute later, Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid produced a wonderful stop to deny Balestier forward Akbar Shah, who had spun his marker around before firing a left-footed effort that was destined for the top corner.

The Tigers were then dealt a major blow in the 32nd minute after Vedran Mesec had to be taken off with a twisted ankle and that allowed the visiting Cheetahs to take control of the game.

They should have perhaps gone ahead six minutes later after Nurhilmi was slipped through on goal by a brilliant pass from Vestering, but a scuffed shot from the midfielder meant Balestier custodian Zaiful Nizam was able to gather the ball easily.

Zaiful was again called into action a minute before the break as he used his feet to deny Antoine Viterale following a smart reverse pass from Stanely Ng.

Hougang continued their encouraging display in the attacking third in the second half. Yet they were no closer to finding the back of the net with Ng missing after Nurullah Hussein gave the ball away deep in his own half.

The visitors later found themselves denied once more by Zaiful after he dived at full stretch to prevent Nurhilmi’s forceful header off Viterale’s cross from finding the net, while Amir Zalani flashed a volley narrowly wide minutes later.

Balestier almost made them pay for those misses in the 60th minute against the run of play, with Akbar Shah rocking the woodwork from close range following Hougang’s failure to clear the ball.