Warriors And Hougang Share Spoils In Stalemate
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Warriors FC missed the chance to finish fourth in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Hougang United at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Friday night.
Needing a win to overtake Geylang International who went down 7-2 to Albirex Niigata (S) on the same day, the result meant Warriors could only conclude the season in fifth - two points behind the Eagles.
The Cheetahs started the match brightly and could have gone ahead three minutes in but Fairoz Hasan’s low shot was kept out by the legs of Hyrulnizam Juma’at.
There was no denying Hougang though as they duly took the lead on 17 minutes with Iqbal rifling home an unstoppable shot into the top corner from 25 yards, leaving Hyrulnizam with no chance.
The hosts tried to muster a response after going behind with Baihakki Khaizan and Hafiz Nor coming close but they were unable to put the ball past Hougang custodian Ridhuan Barudin.
Warriors would however be rewarded with an equaliser eight minutes before the break when Hafiz thumped home a first-time volley after the Hougang backline had failed to deal with a Shahril corner.
The Cheetahs came out of the restart looking the dangerous of the two and Hyrulnizam had to be alert to parry Fairoz Hasan’s fierce shot away for a corner in the 49th minute.
Six minutes later, Iqbal then played Nurhilmi Jasni through on goal with a reverse pass but the Hougang skipper was denied by an onrushing Hyrulnizam who managed to push it over.
The tide soon swung in the favour of Warriors as they created chance after chance in search of the lead but were unable to find the back of the net.
Kento Fukuda should have put the nine-time S.League champions in front on 66 minutes but nodded over off substitute Jordan Webb’s right-wing cross at the far post.
The Japanese defender then squandered another opportunity eight minutes from time when he headed straight at Ridhuan after he had done well to meet Shaiful Esah’s inswinging freekick delivery.
Time would soon run out for Warriors as they had to contend with a point and a fifth-placed finish in the S.League this season.
The draw saw Warriors end the campaign with 34 points from 24 games while Hougang are a spot below with 30 points in as many matches.
Warriors FC Assistant Coach Azlan Alipah: “I was pleased with the way we played today, the boys gave their best but the result wasn’t in our favour. They wanted to win it for the club as it was our last game but the ball just didn’t want to go in.
“We were unlucky we didn’t get the three points which would seen us finish fourth. But we were able to dictate the game although they (Hougang) managed to score through a lapse in concentration between our midfield and defence. Credit has to be given to Iqbal, it was a good goal.
“It had been a season full of ups and downs and we lost a lot of points in games we should have won, especially in the third round.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “It was a fair result considering the chances both teams had. I’m glad we came here today to give Warriors a difficult time even when we did not have anything to play for while Warriors were looking to finish fourth.
“We controlled the first half, looked comfortable at 1-0 and could have made it two but didn’t. We were poor defending corners and that was the disappointing part of the game tonight.
“I was happy with Iqbal’s performance but I feel he can play much bettter. He needs more training and games. Considering he missed football for four months due to National Service, I’m pleased with where he is today.”
Warriors FC: Hyrulnizam Juma’at (GK), Emmeric Ong, Baihakki Khaizan (Jordan Webb 40’), Hafiz Osman, Zulfadli Zainal, Hafiz Nor, Kento Fukuda, Ho Wai Loon, Suria Prakash (Shaiful Esah 67’), Shahril Ishak (C), Fadhil Noh (Ridhuan Muhammad 84’)
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Faiz Salleh, Zulfahmi Arifin, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 70’), Fabian Kwok, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Antoine Viterale (Fumiya Kogure 75’), Iqbal Hussain