Cheetahs just can't seal the deal
Salim's Hougang unlucky to concede last-minute equaliser
HOUGANG UNITED 1
(Nurhilmi Jasni 34)
ALBIREX NIIGATA 1
(Itsuki Yamada 90)
Consistency has been the main problem for Hougang United in 2015.
It looked as if they were finally set to make it two wins on the trot for the first time in this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, but it was not to be as the Cheetahs once again faltered at the death.
Salim Moin's men were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with title-chasing Albirex Niigata after conceding the equaliser in the 90th minute.
The result was extremely harsh on them considering they had been the better side against their more illustrious opponents.
Hougang coach Salim admitted his side had to start building momentum, but he was proud of the performance by his team.
"It's disappointing to have conceded a late equaliser, but I really must congratulate my players," he said.
"They did the right thing in every department for the entire game and I'm proud of the teamwork, attitude and character the boys showed.
"The thing for us now is to be more consistent in getting the results, especially after doing well in the previous match."
Albirex fired the first warning shot when Rui Kumada blazed over with only Ridhuan Barudin to beat in the 11th minute but, from then on, it was the Cheetahs who enjoyed the better of the proceedings.
Vuk Sotirovic was unlucky not to break the deadlock seven minutes later when he met Fairoz Hasan's cross and sent a header off the bar.
Hougang deservedly took the lead in the 34th minute when Sotirovic did well to hold off a couple of challenges before cutting the ball back to Nurhilmi Jasni, who made no mistake firing into the back of the net.
The chances continued to fall their way after the break with Sotirovic lashing a shot into the side-netting after being released by Fairoz, before Diego Gama spurned a glorious chance when he headed over from four metres in the 51st minute.
With their attack causing all sorts of problems for the White Swans, the Cheetahs backline was also playing its part and did an excellent job in restricting its opponents to half-chances and efforts from distance.
All the good work was undone by a stroke of misfortune in the 90th minute, though, when Albirex's Itsuki Yamada pounced on a loose ball and his subsequent shot took a wicked deflection off Tengku Mushadad before making its way past a hapless Ridhuan.
Hougang almost reclaimed the lead when Fazli Jaffar was released down the left and drilled a low cross to fellow substitute Fareez Farhan, but Kento Fujihara raced back in time to block his shot on the line and deny Salim's charges the win.
Albirex are now a point behind league leaders Brunei DPMM having played two games more, but coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama was not overly disappointed by the draw.
"Hougang did very well defensively and we just didn't have enough ideas in the attacking third," said the Japanese.
"But August has been a tough month for us and we have had good results considering we didn't lose any of our six games.
"I have full belief we can maintain this from now till the end of the season."
HOUGANG UNITED: Ridhuan Barudin, Delwinder Singh, Tengku Mushadad, Kunihiro Yamashita, Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni, Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan (Fazli Jaffar 75), Vuk Sotirovic, Diego Gama (Fareez Farhan 89).
ALBIREX NIIGATA: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Kento Fujihara, Itsuki Yamada, Hikaru Mizuno, Shun Inaba, Fumiya Kogure, Kento Nagasaki (Atsushi Kawata 63), Rion Taki, Rui Kumada (Shotaro Ihata 75).
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Fairoz Hasan (Hougang United)