Hougang United vs Nagaworld FC: Can Aw pull off some magic again?
The chance for Philippe Aw to showcase his tactical prowess once again.
- Hougang United 0-0 Albirex (S) (League Cup)
Home United 1-1 Hougang United (League Cup)
Hougang United 2-2 Warriors FC (League Cup)
Balestier Khalsa 0-0 Hougang United (S.League)
Hougang United 0-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
With eight wins and two draws thus far, Nagaworld FC are sitting at third in the Cambodian League table.
After overcoming Balestier Khalsa FC in a seven-goal thriller two months ago during the preliminary stages of the 2017 RHB Singapore Cup, the Cambodian side will be looking to down another Singaporean side on Friday.
But Hougang United will not be making it easy for the 2013 Hun Sen Cup winners.
The Cheetahs will be firing on all cylinders, eager to restart their seven-game unbeaten run that ended with a 1-0 defeat to Warriors FC in the S.League last week.
Naga World FC form:
- Nagaworld 2-2 Police Commissary (C-League)
Balestier Khalsa 3-4 Nagaworld (Singapore Cup)
Nagaworld 3-1 Kirivong Sok Sen Chey (C-League)
Nagaworld 14-0 Svay Rieng FC (Hun Sen Cup)
Boeung Ket 1-1 Nagaworld (C-League)
Hougang will be boosted by the return of defensive stalwart Lionel Tan, and midfielder Amir Zalani, both of whom have just returned from the Singapore under-22s’ training camp in Australia.
Nazrul Nazari is also back from suspension for the Cheetahs. The Malaysia Super League winner has played a pivotal role for Hougang, which are the third-best defence in the league after Albirex (S) and Home, and he was sorely missed in their game against Warriors.
Nagaworld, too, has a largely full strength squad to choose form with no major injuries or suspensions.
Key Battle: Khairulhin Khalid vs Samreth Seiha
Khairulhin has conceded 16 goals in 14 games in the S.League so far, but the Hougang custodian pulled off point-blank parries and flying saves against Warriors last week and was the biggest reason the Cheetahs only lost 1-0.
Hougang will be counting on Khairulhin and co. to keep out Cambodian League top scorer Atuhaire Kipson and strike partner George Kelechi, both of whom scored against Balestier.
Boasting the best defence in the Cambodian League, Seiha has conceded 13 goals in 14 matches so far and has been a regular for Nagaworld. Seiha will no doubt be tested on Friday against the likes of Azhar Sairudin and Pablo Rodriguez.
Master tactician Philippe Aw has proven himself more than once this season, upsetting the odds most recently by beating reigning S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 last month.
The win followed the 1-0 and 3-2 triumphs over AFC Cup ASEAN finalists Ceres-Negros and Home United respectively.
Aw will be looking to outclass Nagaworld counterpart Meas Channa, who took over in 2014 and has led them to a top three finish every season since.
Facts and Figures:
Nagaworld recently beat current C-League table toppers Svay Rieng FC 14-0 in the Hun Sen Cup.
The Cambodian outfit, their first time in the Singapore Cup, crashed out of the first round of the competition last year when they were thrashed 5-0 by Philippines side Global FC.
Hougang have only lost two out of their last 10 games, winning three and drawing five. And those three wins have come against Ceres Negros, AFC Cup ASEAN zonal finalists, Albirex (S), who won four trophies last season, and Home United, currently third in the S.League standings.
With both teams close to full strength, Fridays game might end up in a 1-1 draw, leaving Hougang’s fate at the hands of Nagaworld and its home fans in the second leg of the draw.