Warriors FC vs Hougang United: Can Cheetahs clinch fifth spot?
- Geylang Int 2-1 Warriors (S.League)
- Warriors 2-0 Albirex Niigata (S.League)
- Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Warriors (S.League)
- Warriors 5-2 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
- Brunei DPMM 3-0 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Hougang 0-1 Geylang Int (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Hougang (S.League)
- Hougang 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 0-2 Hougang (S.League)
- Hougang 1-2 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
Last chance for Hougang United to secure top five finish
Despite missing out on a chance to finish as the second best local club and a spot in the AFC Cup after last Thursday’s defeat to Geylang International, Hougang United can consider their season a success, especially if they finish inside the top five in the league.
Currently, they trail Geylang, the current occupants of the fifth spot in the league table, by two points. However, with the Eagles due to face a tough match against fourth-placed Home United in their final game of the season, there is still a huge opportunity for the Cheetahs to overtake them.
For that to happen though, they will need to steal a victory from Warriors FC at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
On paper, that may appear to be an easy task. The nine-time S.League champions have endured a mediocre year despite pre-season aspirations of challenging for title. Like in 2015, they have changed coaches midway through the campaign but that did not exactly help matters.
Regardless of the result from this match, the Warriors will finish in the bottom three for the first time in history. But if the reactions from the players are to be believed, they are determined to end the season on a high instead.
With the game played at home where they have been a tough side to overcome, the side will certainly have no shortage of confidence.
In eight games at Warriors arena this year, they have only lost twice, although it has to be noted that one of the defeats came against the Cheetahs.
Ultimately though, with the season ending and both sides having literally nothing but just three points to play for, it will boil down to whichever side possesses more hunger.
Hougang United have no injury problems in all departments except for their defence.
Last Five Meetings
- Hougang 4-1 Warriors (League Cup, July '16)
- Hougang 1-3 Warriors (S.League, June '16)
- Warriors 0-1 Hougang (S.League, June '16)
- Warriors 2-0 Hougang (S.League, October '15)
- Hougang 4-1 Warriors (S.League, August '15)
Yusiskandar Yusop suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in the match against Geylang, which left Hougang with an undesirable situation of having all their centre-backs sidelined. Nurhilmi Jasni is set to continue his stint in the middle of the defence, although it remains to be seen whether Afiq Noor or Raihan Rahman partners him there.
They will also miss both M. Anumanthan and Nazrul Nazari, two of their better performers over the course of 2016, through suspensions.
For the Warriors, they will welcome both Shaiful Esah and Hafiz Nor back from suspension, and have an almost fully healthy squad to pick from.
Key Battle: Jonathan Behe vs Nurhilmi Jasni
It has overall been a productive season for Behe on a personal level. The French striker has bagged himself 16 goals to sit third in the top scorers chart.
While he has no chance of bagging the top scorers award barring a phenomenal game, he will certainly be looking to put in his best to impress in the last outing of the season, be it either to secure a contract extension with the Warriors or a new deal with potential suitors.
Against a Hougang side with no natural centre-backs, Behe can certainly take full advantage of that.
While the Hougang side will have to work collectively to neutralise any attacking threat from the Warriors, it will be certain that a huge responsibility will fall on Nurilmi Jasni especially when it comes to keeping Behe quiet.
Nurhilmi has been playing at the back in the last three games and has proved to be comfortable there at the very least. Given that he will also be the most experienced player in whichever backline coach K. Balagumaran selects, Nurhilmi will definitely need to step up if the Cheetahs hope to earn a result.
Razif Onn will certainly want to get this game and the season over and done with as quickly as possible, given how disastrous 2016 has been.
While he has guided the Warriors to four victories since taking over, the Warriors have also suffered five defeats in a total of 12 games.
For Balagumaran, the Hougang coach will be looking for a marked improvement from his charges after admitting that the pressure that came with the prospect of AFC Cup football hit them hard in the last game against Geylang.
Facts and Figures
- The Cheetahs have three league victories over Warriors since 2014, two more than they managed in the seven years before then.
- Warriors have conceded eight times in total in the final 10 minutes of a match, the second-worst record in the league behind the Young Lions (15 times).
- With seven goals from set-pieces, Stipe Plazibat has outdone every other team in the league in that category.
Warriors FC 1-1 Hougang United. It will be foolish to think that the Warriors will simply roll over in their final match of the season in front of their own fans. This will be a close one, a draw looks the most likely outcome here.