Hougang forward Plazibat sinks Home United with free-kick
Croatian forward strikes with a free-kick as home fans go wild
HOUGANG UNITED 1
(Stipe Plazibat 34)
HOME UNITED 0
He made his debut in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last night and spent more than half an hour on the pitch without touching the ball.
But Hougang United forward Stipe Plazibat had a good feeling as he addressed a free-kick in the 34th minute.
"I felt like I needed to do something," said the 26-year-old Croat.
He stepped up with his right foot and sent the ball sailing past beyond Home United goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma'at for what turned out to be the match-winner.
His goal sparked wild celebrations among most of the 2,307 fans at the Hougang Stadium last night and their new hero said after the game: "I know Hougang finished bottom last season and teams like Home United and Tampines Rovers have big names, but this is a team sport and I want to bring a winning mentality to Hougang and help the club achieve something.
"The fans sang non-stop throughout the match and this is very important to give the players that little bit more, so I want to thank them," he added.
Practice makes perfect and K Balagumaran, who celebrated his first win as Hougang coach, revealed how his import had been working on free-kicks on his own after training.
The 51-year-old coach, who was so pumped up he couldn't sit on the bench during the last few minutes last night, said: "With our set-piece specialist Fumiya (Kogure) out with a fractured toe, I wasn't sure who could step up.
"But Stipe would pull our goalkeeper Khai(rulhin Khalid) after training and practise free-kicks, so credit must go to the players who all wanted to play and win."
In truth, it was a game in which the title-chasing visitors enjoyed the lion's share of possession and dominated, but just could not produce the cutting edge.
Irfan Fandi Ahmad was the first to fire over from Faris Ramli's cross in the 10th minute, before Song Ui Yong missed a sitter in the 53rd minute.
Khairulhin was confident in dealing with crosses while defenders Ali Hudzaifi and Delwinder Singh made some crucial interceptions.
"I told the players to give their all for themselves and for the team and every player did that tonight," said Bala, who along with his players, saluted the Hougang fans who set off flares and continued to cheer on their heroes with chants after the match.
"This win over a traditional giant and two-time S.League champions means a lot to us. The management has set us a target of finishing in the top five and it's good to get our first win in our first match.
"I want to dedicate this win to our superb fans who definitely played a big part to will us on to victory."
Home United coach Philippe Aw, was left to rue the poor start to the season. They have just a point from two games.
Said the 39-year-old: "It's frustrating... We dominated both games but, when you don't finish them off, sometimes you get punished by the opponents' only chance.
"Our next game is against Tampines and we will be extra pumped up to get our first three points of the season by beating the title favourites."
- HOUGANG: Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Yusiskandar Yusop, Delwinder Singh, Ali Hudzaifi, Nur Ridho Ahmad Jafri (Nur Na’iim Ishak 56), Raihan Rahman, Anumanthan Mohan Kumar, Faiz Salleh (Afiq Mat Noor 78), Stipe Plazibat, Jozef Kaplan (Fairoz Hasan 86)
- HOME UNITED: Hyrulnizam Juma’at, Juma’at Jantan, Shahrin Saberin, Abdil Qaiyyim, Sirina Camara, Faris Ramli (Ikhsan Fandi Ahmad 70), Song Ui Yong, Zulfahmi Arifin, Azhar Sairudin (Aqhari Abdullah 46), Ken Ilso, Irfan Fandi (Khairul Nizam 67)
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Ali Hudzaifi (Hougang United)
“I like to thank all the 2,000 plus fans who turned up tonight and hope everyone enjoyed themselves in a hardfought match. As safety is our paramount concern, items such as flares are not allowed in our matches. I hope fans will understand the rationale and abide by the rules. The club will be taken to task with regard to the incident and need to enforce better security in future matches.”
— S.League CEO Lim Chin on the flare incident (above)
S.League 'live' games to kick off at 7.45pm
All S.League matches shown live on television will kick off at 7.45pm from next week.
The S.League yesterday announced the arrangement, beginning with next Friday's clash between Tampines Rovers and Hougang United.
Fans will be able to watch the game on SuperSports Arena (StarHub TV Channel 112/205).
SuperSports Arena is a free channel accessible on devices such as TVs, smartphones and tablets. Non-StarHub TV customers can also access the channel by hooking their TVs to a cable point and tuning in to 76.25MHz. - DAVID LEE