Viterale the super sub
Hougang's young Italian forward stuns favourites Ceres with late winner
|HOUGANG UNITED||CERES NEGROS|
|(Antoine Viterale 78)|
After seeing fellow S.League sides Warriors FC and Balestier Khalsa dumped out of the RHB Singapore Cup preliminary round by Cambodian clubs Boeung Ket and Naga World respectively, Hougang United salvaged local pride when they upset Ceres Negros 1-0 last night.
The Philippines Football League outfit were widely regarded as the most illustrious foreign team in this year's competition, having reached the Asean zonal finals of the AFC Cup this season.
But they were stunned by a 78th-minute winner from Hougang's young Italian forward Antoine Viterale, who came on as a substitute for Azhar Sairudin just 14 minutes earlier.
The 21-year-old seized on a mistake by Carlos de Murga to calmly slot the ball past Louie Casas.
He told The New Paper: "I'm so happy that my first goal in Singapore is such an important one for the club as we were the underdogs.
"We showed that we have what it takes to beat the best teams but, now that we are in the quarter-finals, we have to take it one step at a time."
The Cheetahs' local contingent also deserved credit for how they battled as a unit at Hougang Stadium.
While Hougang coach Philippe Aw deployed a five-man defence to counter Ceres' fearsome attack that has vanquished the likes of 2015 AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta'zim this term, the Singaporean side still attempted to build up play from the back.
There were times they were caught in possession, such as in the 15th minute, but Fernando Ortega could not capitalise for Ceres.
The Filipino side beat the offside trap in the 24th minute as Ortega and Jose Porteria combined to cause panic in the Hougang backline before they eventually cleared the danger.
Hougang missed a gilt-edged chance themselves when Azhar lunged but failed to connect with Nazrul Nazari's drive across the box five minutes before the break.
Porteria fired against the post in the 61st minute, but that was as close as Ceres got to scoring against a stout home defence that successfully neutralised the threat posed by former Bundesliga player Stephan Schrock and former Sevilla striker Ortega.
Said Aw: "We set out to progress and we knew we had to be sound defensively.
"I'm proud of how hard the boys worked to carry out what was required against quality opponents.
"We may not have been able to play the passing football we wanted tonight, but we tried and we knew that if we defended well, we could win the game with one half chance.
"I'm happy for a young player like Antoine. This will be good for not just his morale but also the team's confidence as we aim to move up the league as well."