Sendra Rescues Point For Eagles
Written by: Darren Ho
Hougang United failed to keep the pressure on fourth-placed Warriors FC as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Geylang International in the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.
An early first-half finish from Azhar Sairudin was cancelled out by Ricardo Sendra in the second period, where the Cheetahs had to cope with ten men after Delwinder Singh was shown a second yellow card and was dismissed right before the hour mark.
Hougang head coach Philippe Aw made two changes to the side that produced a scintillating display in their 2-0 win over Warriors FC at Choa Chu Kang stadium last week, bringing in Amir Zalani and Delwinder as they looked to extend their impressive run to three straight wins in the league.
Aw’s charges made a confident start, stroking the ball around nicely in the early stages and would find the opener after five minutes.
Fabian Kwok broke past a number of challenges before unleashing a throughball for captain Azhar to slide home from close range, sending the Hougang fans into a frenzy.
The Eagles soon burst out of the blocks and became more promising at goal when Victor Coto and Stanely Ng took turns to raid the Hougang’s defends with their teasing long balls.
However, clear-cut chances for Geylang were at a premium as Atsushi Shirota was at the heart of a strengthened Hougang defence.
The designated hosts eventually made their first serious incursion into the Cheetahs’ territory in the 25th minute, bringing out the first competitive save from Khairulhin Khalid as the Hougang goalkeeper was forced to parry away two of Sendra’s attempts inside two minutues – one coming from an overhead kick from Coto’s delivery.
Delwinder did try to become provider when he made lung-bursting overlaps down the right flank to eventually pick up Fumiya Kogure in the penalty box but the latter fired wide despite being unmarked.
Hougang could have strengthened their hold before the break, but Azhar’s gorgeous freekick delivery was nodded wide by Antoine Viterale who was under no pressure.
Early in the second period, Geylang head coach Hasrin Jailani brought on Gabriel Quak for Nor Azli Yusoff to give his side another attacking option and the Eagles’ share of possession slowly increased.
However, it was Hougang who could have once again established a two-goal cushion.
Kwok was unfortunate not to notch his second assist of the night as his brilliant cross headed in by Viterale was deemed offside.
More woes were compounded for Hougang when Delwinder brought down Yuki Ichikawa in the penalty box, conceding a penalty and was sent off in the process.
Geylang’s penalty taker Coto strode up, but slipped and pinged the ball well above the crossbar.
The disappointment was short lived however, as Sendra threw the Eagles a lifeline eight minutes later, darting his header past Khairulhin to make it all square.
The match soon became in Geylang’s favour but Hasrin’s side simply could not break down the resolute Hougang defence once more.
With the game petering out and both teams showing signs of fatigue, Ng nearly snatched a late winner for the Eagles but it was not to be as his effort came off the crossbar.
As it stands, Hougang picked up their first draw in nine games, while Geylang recorded their second, and are two points away from the Cheetahs in sixth position.
Geylang International Head Coach Hasrin Jailani: “It was a game of two halves. In the first half, defensively and attackingly, we showed no hunger and desire.
“We became a better team in the second half when Hougang were down to ten men. Going forward was the thing I wanted because we have been practicing in our past sessions, with two up-fronts and one at the back, but it did not work out today especially in the first-half.
“Playing with 10 men is much easier said than done. Our opponents defended well and were also attacking, so we needed to be mindful of our defence too as it would be worst if we attack and concede.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We should have finished the game in the first-half. At 1-0 up, we had four clear-cut chances, we could have finished it and kill off our opponents.
“The game changer came when Delwinder was sent off and it was difficult then with 10 men against Geylang. I felt if we had another five to ten minutes more to stabilise things, we could pull off the three points.
“Nonetheless, I like to see the fighting spirit in the team as it was a difficult game for us, but we managed to secure that one point.”
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Yuki Ichikawa, Faritz Hameed, Ricardo Sendra, Isa Halim (C), Nor Azli Yusoff (Gabriel Quak 46’), Stanely Ng, Safirul Sulaiman, Victor Coto (Shahfiq Ghani 63’), Amy Recha (Ifwat Ismail 85’)
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Ali Hudzaifi, Delwinder Singh, Lionel Tan, Atsushi Shirota, Azhar Sairudin (C) (Syahiran Miswan 80’), Fumiya Kogure, Zulfahmi Arifin, Fabian Kwok, Amir Zalani (Faiz Salleh 57’), Antoine Viterale (Afiq Noor 69’)