Tanjong Pagar United 0
Hougang United 1 (Jordan Webb 65’)
Hougang United started the second half of the S-League on the right track with a narrow 1-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United, ending the Jaguar’s streak of three 1-0 victories. The Cheetahs themselves too, had ended a streak of their own after entering the mid-season break with six straight defeats on the trot, dropping into the bottom three.
Motivated to end the run, they started the game sprinting out of the blocks and managed to hit the post in the second minute through an Ante Barac’s freekick.
However, the bright start failed to result in any end product for Hougang allowing the Jaguars to slowly gain a foothold on the game.
The best chance of the half came just three minutes before halftime, when Asraf Rashid’s corner found his Tanjong Pagar teammate Syed Karim’s late run into the box, but the latter could not direct it goalwards despite being unchallenged.
Hougang came out of the half-time break more determined and could have broken the deadlock seven minutes after the restart.
Left in acres of space, midfielder Azhar Sairudin unleashed a thumping shot towards the bottom corner, but was prevented by Jaguars custodian Fajar Sarib, who palmed the ball onto the post before it bounced out for a corner.
There was to be no mistake thirteen minutes later though, as Jordan Webb finally opened the scoring.
Failing to deal with Ante Barac’s corner, a poorly headed clearance by a Jaguar defender found its way to the Canadian wing wizard, who struck the ball so precise that the outstretched arms of Fajar Sarib were unable to prevent it from creeping into the bottom corner.
That woke Tanjong Pagar up as they started pressing higher up the pitch in search of the equalizer.
An ambitious effort in the seventy second minute by Takaya Kawanabe almost gave his team just that. From forty yards out, he spotted Hougang keeper Fadhil Salim off his line and attempted to lob him, but Fadhil managed to recover in time to gather the ball.
It was proving to be clear that should the home side salvage something out of the game; it was to be from Kawanabe, who was proving to be a thorn for Hougang defenders.
Those hopes however, were dashed four minutes from time.
Cutting run into the box, the Japanese’s trickery proved too hot for the Hougang defenders, and was tripped inside the box. However, while he looked perfectly able to continue his run, Kawanabe took a tumble, albeit a delayed one. Referee Sukhbir Singh spotted that and duly showed the midfielder a second yellow, giving him his marching orders, along with the Jaguars’ hope of making a comeback.
Hougang United head coach Nenad Bacina felt his team’s discipline and control of the match won them the game.
“Tonight we controlled the possession and the game. We were frustrated and we expected Tanjong Pagar to play this way because of the problems they are facing with their players. We knew they were going to be defending more,” he said.
“That’s what I was telling my players, that it will be a frustrating game for us but we have to be patient.”
“It wasn’t the best performance; maybe we couldn’t enjoy the game. We did not play to our best, but we kept our discipline and collected three points.”
Tanjong Pagar United head coach Terry Pathmanathan however, felt his team did really well despite the loss.
He blamed the unavailability of his new signing (former New York Red Bulls Academy striker Gilbert Bayonne) and other players as a big part of the loss, saying, “The deeper problem is the availability of the players.”
“At the eleventh hour, I’m informed I cannot play my striker Gilbert. Suddenly a thing like this hits you, how would you feel as a coach?”
“I’m in a fix. One of my Korean players is injured, and god knows when he will recover. He has not been playing for months, and it’s just an extension of his mc. It’s all about professionalism.”
He singled out his Prime League boys Abdul Rahim and Seah Si Hao for their performances, while also praised Hafiz Osman.
“Here’s the chance for them to play and they took it well. Excellent performance for me. I’m really amazed they played so well,” said Terry.
“Hafiz is one of those few matured players, and he took the responsibility of playing upfront after Takaya’s sending off. I think it was an excellent effort from him.”
Yellow cards: Zahid Ahmad, Takaya Kawanabe (TPUFC) Fazli Jaffar, Azhar Sairudin(HGFC)
Red Card: Takaya Kawanabe (TPUFC)
Tanjong Pagar United: Fajar Sarib(GK), Hafiz Osman, Delwinder Singh(C) Azhar Ahmad (Seah Si Hao 63’), Asraf Rashid, Takaya Kawanabe, Sudhershen Hariram, Syed Karim (Abdul Rahim 46’), Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Nor, Zahid Ahmad. Unused subs: Shamsudin Hashim, Vikneshwaran, Is Hafizudin.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim(GK), Syaqir Sulaiman, Lau Meng Meng(C), Stanislav Vidakovic, Ante Barac, Azhar Sairudin (Sobrie Mazelan 52’), Jordan Webb, Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 90’), Faizal Amir, Mamadou Diallo, Fazly Hasan. Unused subs: Ridzuan Hasan, Hasree Zais, Ridhwan Osman, Nurhilmi Jasni, Farhan Rahmat.