Hui Strike Sinks Young Lions
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Justin Hui’s first senior goal was enough for Hougang United to edge Garena Young Lions 1-0 in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday night.
Making his first start in the S.League, the 19-year-old popped up with the match winner on the hour mark as the Cheetahs kept their top-four hopes alive.
It was Hougang who could have gone ahead after 12 minutes when Nurhilmi Jasni was bundled over in the box but Iqbal Hussain’s resulting spotkick was saved by Young Lions custodian Zharfan Rohaizad.
Iqbal would come close again against his former side just two minutes later but fired tamely at Zharfan after getting onto the end of Delwinder Singh’s ball from the back.
The Cheetahs continued to dominate proceedings with Iqbal firing into the side-netting on 20 minutes before Atsushi Shirota headed straight at Zharfan off Zulfahmi Arifin’s freekick ten minutes later.
The hosts then had an opportunity at the other end nine minutes before the break but Hougang goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin made a fine stop to keep out Ryan Syaffiq’s firm header.
Young Lions were dealt a blow on 57 minutes when Zharfan had to be replaced by Hairul Syirhan due to injury.
Hougang were then denied by the woodwork two minutes later as Hui’s powerful shot crashed off the underside of the bar before half time substitute Antoine Viterale’s rebound was parried by Hairul.
There was no denying Hui however, as he turned home Fabian Kwok’s low cross from the left from close range to put Philippe Aw’s side in front.
Viterale could have doubled Hougang’s lead in the 63rd minute but he somehow stabbed over at the near post off skipper Nurhilmi’s right-wing delivery.
The Young Lions refused to let their heads drop after going behind and could have restored parity on 65 minutes but Illyas Lee scuffed his shot off a cutback from the right.
But it was Hougang who nearly sealed victory with 11 minutes remaining when Zulfahmi’s curling freekick from 25 yards came off the upright.
Tried as they might, the developmental side were unable to find the equaliser as they suffered their 17th defeat of the season to remain in ninth place with six points after 20 matches.
Hougang meanwhile, stayed in sixth spot with 29 points from 22 games and find themselves four points behind fourth-placed Geylang International who play Brunei DPMM on Friday night.
Garena Young Lions Head Coach Vincent Subramaniam: “It was a better performance from the team today, we were defensively sound which shows that we are improving. Then again, we cannot take too much credit as Hougang rested a couple of players which might have taken the shine off the victory.
“The second half performance was much better than the first but we lost by one goal at the end of the day and a loss is still a loss. It was a close game today but these boys can work and it will be interesting to see how we do against Tampines (Rovers) next on Saturday.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “When this game was scheduled, we planned to expose these younger boys because it would be a good chance for us to give them some match experience. Hence, we decided to hand Justin and Syukri (Bashir) a start and I’m happy the former justified my selection by scoring the goal which won us the game.
“We knew it was not going to be easy coming here especially with injuries to Pablo (Rodriguez) and Fumiya (Kogure) but it could have been easier for us. At 1-0, we had the chances to make it two but we didn’t and anything could have happened after that.
“If that penalty had gone in, it would been much easier. Iqbal was disappointed he could not put it in but I thought we responded well in the second half. We spoke about it at half time and felt we needed more width, where I brought on Antoine (Viterale).”
Garena Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK, C) (Hairul Syirhan 57’), Rusyaidi Salime, Amirul Adli, Faizal Roslan, Syahrul Sazali, Illyas Lee, Armin Maier (Shameer Aziq 59’), Hami Syahin, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Ryan Syaffiq (Haiqal Pashia 74’), Taufik Suparno Hougang United:
Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh (Wahyudi Wahid 84’), Atsushi Shirota, Faiz Salleh, Fabian Kwok, Zulfahmi Arifin, Justin Hui (Amir Zalani 80’), Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Iqbal Hussain, Syukri Bashir (Antoine Viterale 46’)