S.League leaders being compared to Leicester City
Kogure stunner sends Cheetahs back to the top
WARRIORS FC 0
HOUGANG UNITED 1
(Fumiya Kogure 17)
Hougang returned to the S.League summit last night when they upset Warriors FC 1-0 to end their five-year hoodoo at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
More than that, many are comparing the Cheetahs to Leicester City, the surprise pacesetters in the English Premier League.
But Hougang head coach K Balagumaran refuses to get carried away.
"Everyone is calling us the Leicester City of the S.League now, but I don't want this to add pressure to us," he said after the win.
"We should just enjoy this and try to take the three points every game.
"I don't concern myself with things like that. For me, I look at it from game to game.
"I keep telling the boys to stay focused and I told them if you can beat good teams like Home United, Balestier and drew with last year's champions, we can beat any team."
It was apparent that his charges adopted his mindset.
Hougang played without any fear or restrictions as they went up against one of the most decorated clubs in S.League history.
The first half belonged to the Cheetahs, whose industry and graft saw them dominate their opponents.
They could have opened the scoring after just eight minutes but Stipe Plazibat's powerful strike was saved well by Warriors custodian Yazid Yasin.
But there was no denying Hougang in the 17th minute.
Reigning S.League Player of the Year, Fumiya Kogure, was given time and space to cut inside onto his favoured right foot and the Japanese playmaker duly gave his team the lead.
The goal jolted the Warriors and, just seconds later, they almost restored parity.
Jonathan Behe bulldozed his way past several defenders down the left flank before cutting back to Hafiz Rahim, but his resulting effort was cleared off the line by Hougang full-back Faiz Salleh.
In the second half, the revived Warriors watched in agony as Nikola Rak's free-kick hit the crossbar and went out.
Hougang had to defend frantically for the remainder of the game and were almost caught out at the end.
Zulfadli Zainal's cross found Warriors substitute Ignatius Ang, but his header ricocheted off the upright before falling to Behe, whose effort looped over the goal.
Furious Warriors head coach Jorg Steinebrunner demanded improvement from his players.
"They were not good enough, only positive is that second half we created enough chances to equalise and maybe win the game but it's still not good enough," he said.
"We were non-existent in the first half, we didn't defend well, and we did not have good ball possession.
"I think, this should be a good wake-up call for the players and they have to perform better from now on or I will be forced to make changes."
WARRIORS: Yazid Yasin, Poh Yi Feng, Madhu Mohana, Kento Fukuda, Zulfadli Zainal, Emmeric Ong (Ridhuan Muhamad 84), Syaqir Sulaiman (Ignatius Ang 68), Hafiz Nor, Hafiz Rahim, Nikola Rak, Jonathan Behe.
HOUGANG: Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Nazari, Yusiskandar Yusop, M. Anumanthan, Faiz Salleh, Raihan Rahman, Nurhilmi Jasni (Iqbal Hussain 84), Fairoz Hasan (Afiq Noor 72), Stipe Plazibat, Fumiya Kogure (Nur Ridho Jafri 90), Jozef Kaplan.
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Fumiya Kogure (Hougang)