Kogure stunner separates Hougang from Warriors

A stunning strike from Fumiya Kogure was enough to help Hougang United defeat Warriors FC 1-0 and move to the top of the table for at least 48 hours.  

The Cheetahs are now in first place with 16 points, two ahead of both Albirex Niigata (S) and Tampines Rovers. However the Japanese side have one game in hand while the Stags have two.

Hougang started the game by pressing Warriors high up the pitch, denying their hosts the time and space to build up play.

It worked as Warriors struggled to hold onto possession, and in the eighth minute, they crafted out a chance after Stipe Plazibat played a one-two with Jozef Kaplan inside the box, before firing a powerful attempt straight at Warriors goalkeeper Yazid Yasin.

The Cheetahs eventually took the lead in the 18th minute, thanks to a moment of individual brilliance from Kogure.

The reigning S.League player of the year was given time and space just outside the box and needed no further invitation to slam the ball into the top corner.

Right after the restart, Warriors could have equalised.

Jonathan Behe charged down the left before searching for Hafiz Nor just in front of goal, but the winger could not apply the final touch before Faiz Salleh made the clearance.

Both Kaplan and Plazibat spurned chances to extend the visitors’ lead minutes later, after they failed to connect with a dangerous low cross from Nazrul Nazari.

Rak failed to find the target at the other end on the half-hour mark, while Kaplan’s attempt from a tight angle was comfortable for Yazid.

Just before half-time, Behe had a decent opportunity to score from Rak’s corner, but failed to keep his header on target.

Warriors came out for second half with more attacking intent and to their credit, they managed to craft out some chances.

Rak came very close to clinching the equaliser in the 59th minute, but his free-kick from 20 yards clipped the crossbar before going behind for a goal-kick.

Hafiz Nor blasted another effort just over after cutting in, before Nazrul and Rak both missed the target completely a minute apart at either end.

Warriors coach Jorg Steinebrunner introduced Ignatius Ang into the game in the 69th minute, and the winger almost made an instant impact.

Latching onto Zulfadli Zainal’s cutback, he lashed the ball towards the bottom corner, but it was deflected inches wide with Khairulhin Khalid struggling to cover his angle.

With four minutes left, Ang headed Zulfadli’s cross against the crossbar and while Behe was first to go for the rebound, he could not produce the final touch before it bounced over for a goal-kick, dissolving any hopes of a Warriors comeback.

After the game, Jorg Steinebrunner admitted that his players simply did not show up, especially in the first half and it is “not good enough”.

“We were non-existent in the first half, we were second best,” the German said.

“I think it’s a wake up call for some of the players. If those four or five players continue walking on the pitch, it will be the last time they are gonna walk… I don’t care if you are a local or foreign player.”

Steinebrunner warned that should things remain the same in the next match against Home United, those underperforming players “will not be given any more chances”.

“Players deserve the second chance, but I expect them to put up more in the next game against Home United. If they don’t they can sit on the bench or in the stands against Tampines (Rovers).”

On the other hand, Hougang United’s K. Balagumaran believed they created their own luck.

“First half we were more organised, we were patient in the build-up, good work from Fumiya - he took the chance.” he said.

“Second half we sat back deeper because the players wanted to keep the one goal lead, I told players to push up more but they didn’t. They gave us some problems.

“End of the day for me, luck means you take your chance. They created but didn’t make it.”