SPL : Tanjong Pagar Utd stun highflying Hougang 4-1 for 2nd win of the season!
(Tanjong Pagar United FC - Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
By Sadat Osman
The battle of the big cats brought out a surprising result as Tanjong Pagar United FC (TPUFC) upset title-chasing Hougang United FC (HGFC) 4-1, to rise to 5th spot in the table. On Saturday (24 July), a stunning second-half showing, saw the Jaguars secure a shock win as the Cheetahs failed to close the gap with the top two clubs.
With a 100-spectators cap at the Hougang Stadium, both teams restarted the season with key players missing — particularly Shakir Hamzah who recently passed the Yoyo test, was left out of the squad. That's after coach Hasrin Jailani said during a pre-match interview, that he wanted to play safe, indicating that it’s too soon to have him play a competitive game.
Kaishu Yamazaki was also left out for Hougang despite his past contributions for a team, who’re still in the running for the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title. Tanjong Pagar comparatively, had more competitive game time, but the Cheetahs were off for over two months.
It took Hougang just 6 minutes to make an impact. Gilberto Fortunato had the first opportunity of the game, albeit a half chance, volleyed into a wall of defenders against the run of play — indicating his side’s plans for the evening. Blake Ricciuto was all over the park for the visitors, getting involved in crunching challenges. But it was the Cheetahs' skipper Fabian Kwok who threatened with a cross to Gilberto. And he failed to find a clean connection from close range in the 9th minute.
(HGFC's Gilberto Fortunato- Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
Unsurprisingly, it was the home side that dominated the game whenever they had possession of the ball, with Gilberto making a nuisance of himself in the final third. But again, it was Ricciuto denying the Brazilian forward with a challenge resulting in a freekick in the 15th minute. Idraki Adnan’s resulting cross was headed off target by Tomoyuki Doi while under pressure.
5 minutes later, Afiq Noor found Doi once again — he controls the ball with the chest before unleashing a shot that hits the post. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered as he was ruled offside. Afiq Noor continued to see plenty of the ball, constantly threatening with penetrating runs. But it was his shot from 30 meters that made the biggest impact in the first half. However, it was always rising and nowhere near the target.
Hougang United continued to put the pressure on the visitors, who registered only one win this season. Throughout the first half, the Jags struggled to hold on to the ball, let alone cause a problem for the returning Izwan Mahbud in between the sticks for the Cheetahs. Nonetheless, Hasrin Jailani’s men held out to go into the break all square.
At the beginning of the second half, TPUFC looked like a rejuvenated side, as they held on to the ball and pressed forward with more intent. Hougang’s defence went to sleep as Anaki Ismit latched onto a ball after a swift movement on the left, to head home the opening goal of the game in the 48th minute.
(TPUFC's Anaki Ismit - Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
Despite the shocker at the Hougang Stadium, the home side did not waver in the face of adversity. Against the run of play, Tomoyuki Doi found himself over a dead-ball situation with a freekick just outside the box on the hour mark. And the SPL's top scorer’s outstanding effort made it over the wall and into the net – the goalkeeper was stranded.
(TPUFC's Luiz Junior - Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
Five minutes later, Luiz Junior flipped the script and found the net after he connected with a cross from Shodai Nishikawa from the left via a counterattack – netting his 7th goal of the season with left foot finish. At this point, things were heating up on the pitch as Hougang felt that they should have been doing better — hard tackles were flying in left-right-centre, but it was still not working for Clement Teo’s men.
(TPUFC's Reo Nishigushi - Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
The Jaguars, with veteran hotshot Khairul Amri introduced in the second half, were not about to let this opportunity to register a 2nd win slip away. After holding off Hougang’s toothless efforts, Reo Nishiguchi scored his 5th goal of the season with a sublime solo effort. In the 88th min and after faking a shot with his right foot in the penalty area, he used his left to slot past Izwan in the national goalkeeper’s return to Singaporean football, with a swerving shot.
Leading 3-1 and when it looked like it was all said and done, it was super-sub Amri, putting the final nail in the coffin for the visitors. In the 94th min, the 36 year old's left foot connected with Suhairi Sabri’s cross from close range, leaving Singapore’s number one custodian with no chance to save. Final score was 4-1 to the visiting Jaguars.
With their 3rd loss, Hougang’s 3-match winning streak came to an empathic end, as they march into a tie against league-leaders Albirex Niigata (S) next week. The Jaguars, on the other hand, will take on struggling Geylang International on 1st August at home. After 12 rounds, the Cheetahs are still in 3rd place and 5 points off the lead while the Jaguars rise to 5th spot with 10 points.
Additional reporting by Raj Kumar
Sadat Osman had a 10-year career in the publication industry, where he covered several beats including current affairs, food, fishing, music, and football. As the former chief editor at Goal.com and a fan of Newcastle United FC since 1996, Sadat also had a trial as a goalkeeper at Tanjong Pagar United FC. But today he remains a frequent social player of the game, who fancies Lionel Messi. However, Sadat's playing style is unfortunately similar to that of Titus Bramble!