Hougang United vs Brunei DPMM: Do-or-die for Cheetahs’ League Cup hopes
Battle of the leaky defences.
Hougang United Form
- Tampines Rovers 6-4 Hougang (League Cup)
- Hougang 1-3 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Geylang Int’l 1-2 Hougang (S.League)
- Hougang 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
- Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Hougang (S.League)
Brunei DPMM Form
- DPMM 4-0 Warriors FC (League Cup)
- Ceres La Salle 2-3 DPMM (Singapore Cup)
- DPMM 0-3 Ceres La Salle (Singapore Cup)
- Balestier Khalsa 1-4 DPMM (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 1-1 DPMM (S.League)
Things had looked promising for Hougang United at the start of the season, with the handy acquisitions of former LionsXII players Nazrul Nazari, Raihan Rahman and ex-Young Lions stars like M. Anumanthan and Iqbal Hussain.
However, it has gone a little pear-shaped since, with the Cheetahs winning just once in their last 10 outings in all competitions. That poor run of form has seen them drop to fifth in the S.League table and crash out of the Singapore Cup at the first hurdle.
The League Cup represents their final chance of attaining silverware this season, but they got off to an ominous start in their Group A opener by losing to Tampines Rovers 6-4.
The decision to leave key forwards Jozef Kaplan and Stipe Plazibat on the bench backfired for coach K Balagumaran, as they were 4-0 down by half-time.
The duo came on to reduce arrears in the second half, but it was too little too late for the north-east based club.
With only the top two teams progressing into the semi-finals, they ought to bounce back against Brunei DPMM – if not risk yet another early cup exit.
In contrast, the pieces are slowly coming together for the Wasps after a sluggish start to the year – they have lost just once in their last five games.
While it is realistically tough to retain their S.League crown – being 16 points off the pace with eight games to go, the League Cup is a whole different prospect altogether with most clubs missing their key players due to international duty.
Coach Steve Kean showed no mercy to a depleted Warriors FC outfit as he fielded a full-strength starting eleven that romped to a 4-0 victory – with the attacking trio of Paulo Sergio, Adi Said and Rafael Ramazotti (two) getting amongst the goals.
A second successive win will see them book their passage into the last four, but it will not come easy against the wounded Cheetahs.
Do expect goals in this game, with both sides struggling to keep shutouts. Hougang last kept a clean sheet 11 matches ago in a 1-0 league win against Warriors, while that 4-0 win over Warriors was DPMM’s only second clean sheet of the season.
Hougang will have to cope with a few absentees, with left back Huzaifah Aziz serving a one-match suspension for his red card against Tampines while defender Delwinder Singh is still recovering from a second-grade ankle ligament tear.
Winger Nur Ridho Jafri is also a doubt after suffering an early injury the last time out, with Nurhilmi Jasni likely to be the one to replace him at right midfield.
DPMM will, however, have a fully-fit squad at their disposal.
Key Battle: Yusiskandar Yusop vs Rafael Ramazotti
Warriors tried, but failed to contain Ramazotti - who scored twice and laid two assists that night. The towering Brazilian forward has scored eight goals in his last six games, proving how integral he is to the DPMM cause.
With Delwinder still out, the onus is on Yusiskandar to handle his in-form opponent. The 31-year-old, who only recently returned from injury, will need to recover from a torrid outing against Tampines and improve his chemistry with centre-back partner Wahyudi Wahid.
Having seen how his reshuffled side struggle against Tampines, Hougang tactician Balagumaran may well opt to bring back the big guns like Kaplan, Plazibat and Raihan Rahman into the line-up.
Meanwhile DPMM counterpart Kean is likely to stick to his usual 3-4-3 formation and keep the same starting eleven – with Adi Said continuing to deputise for the off-form Azwan Ali.
Last Five Meetings
- DPMM 3-2 Hougang (S.League, May ’16)
- Hougang 0-0 DPMM (S.League, Mar ’16)
- Hougang 1-2 DPMM (S.League, Oct ‘15)
- DPMM 1-1 Hougang (S.League, Jul ’15)
- Hougang 1-0 DPMM (League Cup, Jun ’15)
Facts and Figures
- DPMM have the clear upper hand based on head-to-head records. In 14 official match-ups, they won eight times while Hougang triumphed only twice. The other four matches ended in draws.
- Hougang have yet to beat DPMM this season, holding them to a 0-0 draw at home in March before being edged out 3-2 in Bandar Seri Begawan in May.
- Both sides had met in the group stage of last season’s League Cup as well, with Hougang pulling off a 1-0 upset courtesy of debutant Vuk Sotirovic.
- Hougang have let slip a 1-0 half-time lead to lose in their last two home matches.
A rather strong home record for Hougang may sway the outcome of the game. The Cheetahs to nick a 1-1 draw and stay in contention for the semi-finals.