Tanjong Pagar 1 Hafiz Osman 69’
Hougang 1 Mamadou Diallo 54’ (FT after ET: 1-1. Hougang win 4-3 on penalties)
Tanjong Pagar scorers: Takaya Kawanabe, Hafiz Osman, Asraf Rashid.
Missed: Jonathan Xu, Jang In Jun.
Hougang scorers: Ante Barac, Fazly Hasan, Mamadou Diallo, Stanislav Vidakovic.
Missed: Ignatius Ang
Tanjong Pagar’s three-game winning run was halted as they went out on penalties in the preliminary round of the Singapore Cup to last season’s semi-finalists Hougang United, who themselves finally ended a six-match losing streak.
Seemingly intent on getting a win, the visitors went on the offensive from the start, but found opportunities hard to come by.
Lau Meng Meng had the game’s first shot on goal, which went straight into Fajar Sarib’s arms, while Azhar Sairudin and Syaqir Sulaiman saw their long-range strikes go well wide.
The first real chance of note came instead from Tanjong Pagar, when Seah Si Hao floated in a corner which Takaya Kawanabe nodded narrowly over at the near post.
That was the closest either side came to scoring, as a drab first-half ended goal-less.
But just ten minutes into the second half, Hougang took the lead.
A deep cross from Jordan Webb on the left was knocked back across goal by Fazli Jaffar at the far post , and Mamadou Diallo poked home from three yards out.
The Jaguars hit back in the 69th minute, as Hafiz Osman rose highest in the box to direct a header into the top corner from Asraf Rashid’s excellent corner delivery and equalise.
Both sides could not breach the other’s goal again in regulation time, which meant that the match headed into extra time. However, with the exception of a fierce shot from Takaya in the dying seconds, which was well tipped over by Ridzuan Hasan, neither team was closer to finding the breakthrough, leaving the tie to be decided by a penalty shootout.
Hougang were the first to blink when Ignatius Ang missed their second spot-kick, but they had the last laugh as Ridzuan saved superbly from Jonathan Xu and Jang In Jun then blazed over from the spot when he had to score to keep his side in the shootout to hand Hougang the victory.
Tanjong Pagar held a deep defensive line throughout the game, with skipper Delwinder Singh operating as an auxiliary centreback at times despite being deployed as a defensive midfielder. This made it very difficult for Hougang to break them down and get the ball in the box, which forced them to resort to long-range attempts, all of which went horribly wide.
To be fair, both sides were atrocious with their shooting accuracy in what was a cagey affair and the two goals were due to a defensive lapse and slack marking at a set-piece.
With the isolated Takaya only coming into the game more after Asraf was sent on to partner him, the home side struggled to fashion any clear-cut chances themselves. They were clearly the second-best side, although coach Terry Pathmanathan can at least be pleased with the decent performances of Prime League boys Seah Si Hao and Is Hafizuddin.
Spirit is “still there”
A understandably pleased Nenad Bacina thought that his Hougang side did well and claimed that his players’ spirits were always there even during the six previous losses.
“We came here with six defeats in a row, but with high morale and the attitude to win in the ninety minutes. We controlled the play, we had more possession and we managed to score in the second half, but unfortunately later we conceded… Tonight we were the luckier team and pnealties are always a lottery, so this time Lady Luck is with us. “
He admitted that they knew the home side would try to frustrate his team and singled out the pitch as a factor which affected their play.
“We were the team (which was) trying to play a passing game and I have to admit we were a bit disrupted by the pitch conditons, but it’s the same for both teams. We never lost concentration during the game and I think definitely in the end, we deserved this piece of luck.”
He also paid tribute to the group of Hougang supporters who were singing throughout, while also hoping that the break would mean that his team could perform better in the second half of the season.
“I have to thank our Hougang Hools, those who are come to every game. Even when we are losing, they are still behind us, and I can promise them we will try out best in the second round, and in the Cup we will try to go as far as possible.
“At the moment we are not planning any changes in the squad. My players definitely need a short break to refresh their minds and relax, to forget about the football and come back hungrier for the second round.”
Hougang will next face Gombak in the Singapore Cup quarter-finals.
Tanjong Pagar: Fajar Sarib, Jonathan Xu, Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Osman, Zahid Ahmad, Serge Souchon (Seah Si Hao 29’ (S Vikneshwaran 105’)), Delwinder Singh (C), Jang In Jun, Azhar Ahmad, Is Hafizuddin (Asraf Rashid 57’), Takaya Kawanabe. Unused subs: Shamsudin Hashim, Sudhershen Hariam, Syed Karim, Justin Khiang.
Hougang: Ridzuan Hasan, Hasree Zais, Syaqir Sulaiman, Stanislav Vidakovic, Lau Meng Meng (C), Azhar Sairudin (Faizal Amir 108’), Ante Barac, Fasly Hasan, Jordan Webb (Ignatius Ang 117’), Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 87’), Mamadou Diallo. Unused subs: Fadhil Salim, Khayrulhayat Jumat, Farhan Rahmat, Ridhwan Osman.
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