10-man Hougang fight back to earn point
Hougang fight back for a point despite playing with 10 men for 50 minutes
HOUGANG UNITED 1
(Iqbal Hamid Hussain 70)
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Billy Mehmet 40-pen)
They were missing their reigning S.League Player of the Year and chief playmaker Fumiya Kogure because of a fractured finger.
Combative midfielder Raihan Abdul Rahman and left back Faiz Salleh were also ruled out through suspension.
Then in the 40th minute, Hougang United lost centre back Wahyudi Wahid when he was sent off for illegally stopping Hafiz Abu Sujad, who was through on goal.
Billy Mehmet tucked away the resulting penalty to put Tampines Rovers 1-0 up. In the previous game, the Stags benefited from a similar scenario and went on to beat Warriors FC 4-2.
But the Cheetahs are made of sterner stuff, especially in front of 1,538 fans at the Hougang Stadium.
"I didn't need to talk about tactics at half- time because we were playing well and creating chances. There is just an unbelievable amount of energy whenever we play in front of our home fans," said Hougang coach K Balagumaran.
"We were down a goal and a man because we made a mistake as a team, so I told those who were still playing that they have to run five kilometres more in the second half to get a result.
"We are the fitter team and we responded well. We could even have won the match."
AGAINST THE ODDS
Indeed, instead of capitulating, Hougang capitalised in adversity.
Their goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid was close to unbeatable as he foiled Fazrul Nawaz in the 54th minute and Shahdan Sulaiman on the hour mark to prevent Tampines from extending their lead.
That gave the hosts the belief to press forward, which they did despite the numerical disadvantage.
They were rewarded in the 70th minute when substitute Iqbal Hamid Hussain seized on Irwan Shah's poor pass, cut past Afiq Yunos and prodded the ball beyond Izwan Mahbud for an improbable equaliser.
"I started when we lost 3-2 to Home United last week and didn't play so well, so I had a point to prove," said 22-year-old Iqbal, who is also a full-time National Serviceman with the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
"It is not easy to juggle NS, waking up early for my eight-to-six shift at Jalan Bahar and rush down for training and matches.
"But, whenever I get the chance to play, I try my best to make a difference, to create or score. I'm happy to play my part tonight, but credit to the team because it's not easy to play with 10 men."
Khairulhin then stood his ground to prevent Mehmet from rounding him just two minutes later to rescue a precious point, protect Hougang's five-match unbeaten home record and help them stay third with 17 points after 10 games.
Tampines are second with 21 points, two behind Albirex Niigata and, while their coach V Sundramoorthy was unhappy to drop two points, he was confident they would bounce back.
"We play Selangor on Tuesday to decide who goes through to the next round of the AFC Cup, and it is a dream match-up at the National Stadium," he said.
"It is the perfect stage for our players to step up and perform for people around Asia to see what they are capable of, and I'm confident we will step up."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Khairulhin Khalid (Hougang United)
- HOUGANG UNITED: Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Yusiskandar Yusop, Wahyudi Wahid, Delwinder Singh, Fairoz Hasan (Huzaifah Aziz 83), Anumanthan Mohan Kumar, Nur Na'iim Ishak (Iqbal Hamid Hussain 66), Nurhilmi Jasni (Afiq Mat Noor 83), Jozef Kaplan, Stipe Plazibat.
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Noh Rahman, Mustafic Fahrudin, Afiq Yunos, Irwan Shah (Christopher van Huizen 77), Shahdan Sulaiman (Ismadi Mukhtar 66), Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Fazrul Nawaz (Jermaine Pennant 64), Billy Mehmet.