Home oust Hougang in controversial finish
Home pip Hougang to advance after controversial end to Cup tie
HOME UNITED 2
(Azhar Sairudin 48, Ken Ilso 90+4)
HOUGANG UNITED 1
(Fumiya Kogure 58)
Life sometimes has a way of kicking you when you're down.
Hougang United experienced just that last night, when they went down 2-1 to Home United in controversial fashion in their RHB Singapore Cup clash at the Bishan Stadium.
Heading into the game on the back of a four-match winless run, the Cheetahs clawed back from a goal down and seemed to have done enough to force extra time against the in-form Protectors, only to be punished by two contentious refereeing decisions.
In injury time, Hougang playmaker Fumiya Kogure was brought down by Home fullback Sirina Camara just outside the box, but referee G Letchman waved play on, with linesman Jeffrey Goh also leaving his flag by his side.
Home went on to punt the ball to the other end of the pitch for striker Khairul Nizam, who collapsed under a soft challenge.
This time, Letchman blew his whistle after the linesman on the other side, Ong Chai Lee, flagged for a foul.
The Hougang players were livid, and captain Jozef Kaplan was booked for protesting after his side were denied a free-kick just seconds earlier.
Worse was to come for the Cheetahs when Zulfahmi Arifin took the free-kick and delivered a pin-point ball towards the far post for Ken Ilso to head home.
When the final whistle blew moments later, the disappointment within the Hougang camp inevitably spilled over.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran applauded the fourth official and gave him two thumbs up, telling him "well done".
Several Hougang players confronted Letchman and his linesmen, despite the efforts of Cheetahs defender Delwinder Singh, who desperately tried to push his teammates away.
Home winger Faris Ramli somehow ended up having a heated exchange with a Hougang player, as he tried to shake hands with the opposing bench after the game.
Some Hougang players were even upset with a cameraman who had set his equipment on the field, waiting for the post-match interviews with the respective coaches.
When Hougang coach Bala met the press later, he had already calmed down.
"I've got to take it, it's part of the game," he said.
"We are all humans. But I'm sad, disappointed.
"I thought it was going to be extra time, but unfortunately the free-kick was given. I have to take it."
Home coach Philippe Aw was not bothered by the controversy.
"At the end of the day, it's the ref's decision and how the linesman see it," he said.
"This is football. Sometimes the decisions go against you, sometimes it goes your way.
"Who knows, a few games down the road, we will get a similar decision against us too.
"In general, in terms of clear chances created, we deserved to go through. I was ready for extra time, and I was confident we would have won in extra time too."
The excellent Azhar Sairudin opened the scoring for Home with a header three minutes into the second half.
Kogure equalised with a brilliant shot from 25 metres out that sailed into the top corner.
Man-of-the-Match Azhar then conjured up chances for Ilso and Faris, but his teammates spurned their respective opportunities.
As time ticked down, Ilso saw his curling free-kick from 20 metres come off the upright, before Home substitute Nizam saw his shot from close range cleared off the line by Delwinder.
Just when it looked like Hougang would force an extra 30 minutes, they were dealt the double blow in injury time, as Home book a quarter-final date with Balestier Khalsa.
HOME UNITED: Zulfairuuz Rudy, Redzwan Atan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Shahrin Saberin, Sirina Camara, Syahiran Miswan (Zulfahmi Arifin 76), Song Ui Yong, Shamil Sharif (Khairul Nizam 59), Azhar Sairudin, Faris Ramli, Ken Ilso
HOUGANG:Khairulhin Khalid, Khairulnizam Jumahat (Iqbal Hussain 62), Wahyudi Wahid, Delwinder Singh, Faiz Salleh, M Anumanthan, Raihan Rahman, Fairoz Hasan, Jozef Kaplan, Stipe Plazibat, Fumiya Kogure