Hougang lose again as Tampines seal victory to keep pace with Albirex

Hougang United now hold the undesirable record of 10 Singapore Premier League games without victory after going down 2-0 at home to Tampines Rovers.

Hougang United FC continued their woeful start to their Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign after a 2-0 defeat to Tampines Rovers FC at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night.

Fazrul Nawaz struck just before half-time and Khairul Amri came off the bench to seal the points for Tampines after the break – despite the visitors having to play the last half-hour with just ten men due to Shameer Aziq’s dismissal.

The result meant Jurgen Raab’s men opened up an eight-point gap between them and third-placed Home United FC, but remained 14 points behind runaway leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S).

Meanwhile Hougang continued to be stranded at the bottom – six points adrift of eighth-placed Warriors FC – without a win all season.

Tampines settled in the better of the two sides and could have scored on eight minutes, but Zulfadhmi Suzliman thrashed wide from close range after getting past two defenders.

That woke Hougang up from their slumber and they were unlucky not to net three minutes later. Illyas Lee got the faintest of touches to meet Fareez Farhan’s enticing inswinging corner, but his header was denied by the right-hand post.

Both keepers were then called into action, with Hougang’s Khairulhin Khalid producing a superb reflex save to deny Yasir Hanapi’s snapshot from eight yards out on 25 minutes.

Six minutes later, it was Tampines’ Syazwan Buhari who got down low to tip away Nazrul Nazari’s shot from a tight angle after a great solo run by the latter.

The away side were largely in control of the first half though and duly grabbed a deserved lead on the stroke of half-time.

Shameer was allowed the freedom of space to whip in a delightful cross from the right for Fazrul to nod a towering header past the despairing reach of Khairulhin.

Shameer’s delight would turn to despair 14 minutes into the second half as he got a second bookable offence for a late challenge on Jordan Vestering and was sent for an early bath as a result.

Buoyed by the numerical advantage, Hougang piled on the pressure and went agonisingly close in finding the equaliser in the 65th minute.

Captain Nurhilmi Jasni expertly took down Vestering’s deep cross into the area, but fired wide of the left-hand post under pressure from Tampines’ skipper Fahrudin Mustafic.

They were made to pay for that miss as Tampines went on to double their advantage four minutes later.

Amri – who entered the fray just moments earlier for Fazrul – got a firm header off Yasir’s outswinging corner and it proved too powerful for Khairulhin, who got a hand to the leather but failed to keep it out of his goal.

Hougang threw on Antoine Viterale to shake things up in the attacking third for the final 20 minutes, but the French-Italian forward found the going tough against a stout Tampines backline led by Mustafic.

He did go close with a header off Fareez’s left-wing cross, but it was clawed away by the alert Syazwan.

The final whistle soon sounded to signal a fifth straight loss for Hougang and a fourth consecutive win for Tampines.

Hougang will look to end their winless run when they visit Balestier Khalsa FC next Sunday, while Tampines host Warriors FC on the same night.

Hougang United FC Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We had four certain starters out today – Iqbal (Hussain), Shahfiq (Ghani), Fabian (Kwok) and Muhaimin (Suhaimi), but the boys did well and took the fight to Tampines. The goals came from Fazrul and Amri – they’re in their 30s, but still the top two strikers in Singapore. We do not have such centre forwards.

“I’m giving opportunities to young strikers like Fareez (Farhan) and Iqbal to play upfront, but it’s hurting us because we do not have a presence and we cannot turn half-chances into goals. Unless I can call Noh Alam Shah out of retirement, there’s no other local strikers (in the market) at the moment. So we have to go foreign – that’s something which me and the technical team will need to discuss because it will make a huge difference for us. Hopefully we can bring it someone with a little bit of experience upfront in the (upcoming) transfer window.

“It’s (10 games without a win) mentally tough for us but we as a club have not given up. Game 11 versus Balestier next week, we have to prepare well and go again.”

Tampines Rovers FC Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “Everyone expected us to win 4-0 or 5-0, but I saw that this Hougang team can play well, like they did against Albirex and were unlucky to lose 1-0. They confirmed it today with a brave performance and it wasn’t easy to beat them. We had to be careful of their set-pieces and counter-attacks as well.

“The second goal was so important for us to settle (our nerves), with Hougang having hope after the sending off (to Shameer). It’s nice to have options – Fazrul started and scored, Amri is a good substitute who settled quickly into the game – so I’m happy with this situation.

“Now we have an eight-point gap (with third-placed Home) and we must continue to try and secure second place. To battle for first is unrealistic.”

Hougang United FC: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Faiz Salleh (Antoine Viterale 69’), Illyas Lee, Adam Mitter, Jordan Vestering (Asraf Zahid 90’), Nasrul Taib, Syahiran Miswan (Daniel Goh 83’), Nazrul Nazari, Nurhilmi Jasni (C),  Stanely Ng, Fareez Farhan

Tampines Rovers FC: Syazwan Buhari (GK),  Shameer Aziq, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah, Amirul Adli, Jordan Webb, Yasir Hanapi (Shah Shahiran 82’), Ryutaro Megumi, Fazrul Nawaz (Khairul Amri 65’), Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Madhu Mohana 65’)