Hougang United 0
Home United 2 (Indra Sahdan 49’, 57’)
Indra Sahdan came on in the second half to strike twice for Home United as they beat Hougang United 2-0 in their Starhub League Cup Group C match, scoring only his second and third goals for the club since re-signing for them this season.
Home fielded a strong line-up but could still afford to leave the likes of Indra and Qiu Li on the bench, while the Croatian duo of Ante Barac and Stanislav Vidakovic were left out of the Hougang squad entirely, who had five Prime League players named amongst the substitutes.
Twelve minutes into the game, Franklin Anzite found Shotaro Ihata with a lovely ball over the top, but Syaqir Sulaiman recovered well to put in an excellent covering tackle just as the Japanese striker was about to pull the trigger.
The Home forward got underneath the ball and headed it well over five minutes later, as he rose to meet a freekick from Masrezwan Masturi from the right.
Hougang responded with Jordan Webb bamboozling Masrezwan down the left with some neat footwork, before floating in a cross which crashed off the far post with Lionel Lewis looking on helplessly.
The Protectors tried to push men forward, but found Cheetahs centreback Syaqir Sulaiman in outstanding form, as he held the Hougang defence steady to repel the attacking efforts of the visitors.
However, it took Home only four minutes after the restart to do what neither team could in the opening forty-eight minutes.
Half-time substitute Indra Sahdan hit a lovely effort into the top corner from outside the box past a rooted Ridzuan Hasan to break the deadlock, as he exploited the acres of space afforded to him by the Hougang defenders.
Lionel had to be alert to push away Webb’s low shot after the winger had cut in from the left and skinned two Home defenders, but Home extended the lead just minutes later.
Fellow substitute Qiu Li beat his man before unleashing a fierce grounder from the edge of the area which Ridzuan could only spill into the path of the onrushing Indra, who gleefully tapped home for his second of the night.
The former Singapore striker had a glorious chance to grab a hat-trick in the 79th minute, but he headed a cross over from a completely unmarked position in the box.
Syaqir did get his header on target as he met Ridhwan Osman’s corner in the 87th minute, but Lionel pulled off a superb stop to foil the Hougang defender as he flew across the goal to push the ball away.
That denied the vocal bunch of Hougang supporters a consolation strike to cheer for, as Home secured top spot in their group.
Indra “changed the game”
After seeing his side’s lacklustre first-half display, Home coach Lee Lim Saeng admitted he was happy to see his players turn things around in the second period.
“In the first half, there was a problem with the performance. In order to create more chances, we made three substitutions, because we needed to win.”
Speaking through assistant Baek Jong Seok, who acted as his translator, the Korean reserved praise for two-goal hero Indra Sahdan.
“Of course, I am happy with his performance; he came into the pitch in the second half and changed the game.”
Beaten Hougang coach Nenad Bacina retained an optimistic outlook on things, despite the loss.
“I can tell you honestly, we had an excellent first half. We controlled the game; we showed them how football was supposed to be played.
“I am glad they (Home) showed respect to Hougang. They played a full team, and of course at the end of the day, the players who went inside, like Indra (changed the game)… that is the quality they have.”
He stressed his confidence in his fringe players’ ability to step up, while also looking forward to the quarter-final against SAFFC.
“As you saw from tonight’s team, I was very confident about these players… We decided to rest some of the S-League players, because three of them got yellow cards in the first game, so we didn’t want to take a risk to play them today to get a second yellow.
“Hougang is not about eleven players, we have a big squad and we showed tonight we had players who are good enough to replace those who play regularly.
“I can tell you now we are very confident, we will go there (to SAFFC) with full power and try to make it to the semi-final.”
Hougang: Ridzuan Hasan, Lau Meng Meng (C), Farhan Rahmat (Hwang Kok Chang 69’), Syaqir Sulaiman, Faizal Amir, Azhar Sairudin (Mamadou Diallo 62’), Ridhwan Osman, Nurhilmi Jasni, Jordan Webb, Sobrie Mazelan (Benedict Chua 82’), Ignatius Ang.
Unused subs: Fadhil Salim, Sim Shun Hai, Manoj Kumar, Aubrey Ang.
Home: Lionel Lewis, Nor Azli Yusoff, Kenji Arai, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Rosman Sulaiman, Masrezwan Masturi, Shi Jia Yi (C), Franklin Anzite (Jeremy Chiang 45’), Firdaus Idros (Qiu Li 45’), Frederic Mendy, Shotaro Ihata (Indra Sahdan 45’).
Unused subs: Nazri Sabri, Kairuldin Ishak, Rhysh Roshan Rai.
Yellow cards: Jordan Webb, Ridhwan Osman (both Hougang); Qiu Li (Home)
You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tengkiat, and reach me at email@example.com