Hougang United 0
Young Lions 2 El-Masri 5’, 22’
Photo courtesy of FAS
An early first-half brace from Canadian winger Sherif El-Masri secured all three points for the Courts Young Lions as they inflicted a sixth consecutive loss on Hougang United, in a match marred by some dubious refereeing decisions.
A minute of silence was observed just before kick-off in remembrance of the late Dr. Lau Teng Chuan, one of Singapore’s former top sports administrators who had passed away two days ago.
It was the home side who came roaring out of the traps and they nearly took the lead in the 2nd minute, when Mamadou Diallo blasted a low shot into the side-netting from the right.
However, they went behind just three minutes later, as a half-cleared corner dropped to El-Masri just outside the box and he fired in a first-time half-volley which took a slight deflection on its way to hitting the back of the net.
The Cheetahs were dealt a further blow in the 11th minute, as Syaqir Sulaiman suffered what looked like a gash to the head in a challenge. He was taken to hospital later, and was replaced by Hasree Zais.
The Young Lions were not content to sit back on their lead and nearly doubled it on the break when Faris Ramli found El-Masri on the left, but the winger elected to square it back for Fazli Ayob instead of shooting, and the subsequent shot was delayed and eventually deflected into the arms of Ridzuan Hasan.
Hougang didn’t learn their lesson though. Just a minute later, Faris swept a glorious cross-field ball across to El-Masri, who chested it superbly and then rifled an unerring finish into the far corner from the left of the box, the ball hitting the post as it went in.
The Hougang players were incensed that play was not stopped before that, as they thought a foul should have been called, with coach Nenad Bacina furiously marching over to the fourth official on the touchline to indicate his displeasure.
Ante Barac had a chance to pull a goal back for the home side, but could only fire over from near the penalty spot as a freekick came in, as Hougang went into half-time trailing by two goals.
Diallo fired over from the edge of the area six minutes into the second half as Hougang searched for a way back into the game, with Stanislav Vidakovic putting a header past the wrong side of the post from a corner minutes later.
El-Masri came close to getting a hat-trick but saw his wickedly dipping freekick from just outside the box go narrowly over, before Ignatius Ang wasted a great chance when he knocked a cutback from Diallo wide.
Vidakovic then saw another weak header fall gratefully into the arms of Syazwan Buhari, and Jordan Webb lashed wildly over after creating some space for himself just outside the box.
Jonanthan Toto had the chance to wrap things up as he led a counter-attack in the 78th minute, but he shot straight at Ridzuan after cutting in from the left and nutmegging Vidakovic, as the visitors saw out the game to emerge with victory.
Hougang reverted to a 4-4-2 with Ignatius partnering Diallo upfront and Webb on the left, with Fazli Jaffar the right winger, but they failed to get the ball into the box often from open play. The Diallo-Iggy partnership failed to gel, while star player Webb cut a frustrated figure as many of his runs were well-tracked and defended against.
They had a problem with keeping the ball, constantly giving it away, which enabled the Young Lions to hit them on the break, and looked a far cry from the side which was playing well enough to top the table earlier on in the season.
The Young Lions, on the other hand, were fast and aggressive, not afraid to get into their opponents’ faces and were well worth the victory. El-Masri and Faris were terrific on the flanks in the first half, with the former taking his goals very well and the latter turning Lau Meng Meng inside out with his jinking runs.
They dealt well with the Hougang attacks and looked to be gelling well together, in stark contrast to their poor form in the first few losses which saw them rooted to the bottom of the table.
Officiating could have been “better”
Both coaches were not particularly pleased with referee Jeevanathan, although they stopped short of putting any blame on him.
“The game is over; I think it (the refereeing) could have been better but then again, he is closest to the action. What we can do is to go back and watch the video (replays), instead of just blaming him,” said Young Lions coach Robin Chitrakar, while Hougang’s Nenad Bacina remarked: “I think he was the worst player on the field. He was making wrong decisions on both side, and hopefully he will improve. I am definitely not blaming him for the defeat, but he should have done better.”
Chitrakar also praised his boys for the win, but declared that his side will not rest on their laurels.
“It was a tough game for us, but we scored early on and it definitely helped us. I don’t think it was a foul (for the second goal). We really fought hard for the victory... the team played really well today. You can see they are getting results, and hopefully we can build from here.”
Bacina begged to differ on the second goal, but admitted that he was perplexed at his side’s inability to score.
“I am satisfied with my team’s performance, effort and professional attitude. Both teams played well, but it was a clear foul. I don’t know why they gave the advantage to the Young Lions. Somehow, we couldn’t kick the ball across the line; whether it’s luck or something else, I don’t know.”
He also dropped a bombshell regarding his future, as he said that he might have to reconsider his position.
“Six defeats in a row is quite difficult for me (to take) as a coach; I have to be responsible for the result. I have to speak with the management… we have to sit down and discuss about the future of Hougang. If I have to step down to change something here, I will.”
Hougang: Ridzuan Hasan, Faizal Amir, Syaqir Sulaiman (Hasree Zais 11’), Stanislav Vidakovic, Lau Meng Meng (C), Jordan Webb, Azhar Sairudin (Ridhwan Osman 56’), Ante Barac, Fazli Jaffar, Ignatius Ang (Sobrie Mazelan 79’), Mamadou Diallo. Unused subs: Fadhil Salim, Fazly Hasan, Nurhilmi Jasni, Basit Hamid.
Young Lions: Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Shiekh Abdul Hadi, Sirina Camara, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Faris Ramli (Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee 68’), Aqhari Abdullah (Shamil Sharif 85’), Hafiz Sujad (C), Sherif El-Masri, Fazli Ayob (Neil Vanu 81’), Jonathan Toto. Unused subs: Neezam Aziz, Tajeli Salamat, Sufianto Salleh, Haniff Sadique.
You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tengkiat, and reach me at email@example.com