By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Reporting from the Choa Chu Kang Stadium
Following a goalless first half at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Mislav Karoglan nodded the Warriors into the lead in the 47th minute and they appeared on course to pick up the three points.
But six minutes from time, Mamadou Diallo scored with a close-range header to help the visitors force a draw and deny former coach Alex Weaver a fourth straight win with his new side.
Entering the game on the back of last Friday’s impressive 3-1 win at Albirex Niigata (S), the hosts looked up for it from the opening whistle and threatened as early as the fifth minute; Sufian Anuar latching onto Kazuyuki Toda’s lovely pass and racing through, but Syaqir Sulaiman did enough to dispossess him as he was about to pull the trigger.
Five minutes later, Fadhil Salim reacted well to keep out a low drive from Mislav Karoglan after the Bosnian had received the ball from Shimpei Sakurada and spun sharply to create space for himself inside the box.
Warriors continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides and Karoglan had another chance in the 22nd minute when he picked up possession and advanced into the box before drilling in a shot from a tight angle, but Fadhil was once again equal to the task and made a smart save at his near post.
But against the run of play, it was the Cheetahs who came closest to opening the scoring five minutes later when Jerome Baker played a lovely reverse pass to Fairoz Hasan, who unleashed a ferocious drive that had Hassan Sunny beaten all ends up, only to see it come back off the bar.
Buoyed by that near miss, Hougang began to step up their game and Diallo was next to threaten the opposition goal, unleashing a trademark piledriver in the 40th minute that sailed inches over.
However, two minutes after the restart, the hosts went ahead after Shi Jiayi played a lovely cross into the box, where it was met by Karoglan with a flying header that sailed past Fadhil and into the far corner.
Three minutes after the hour mark, another excellent delivery by Shi nearly led to a second goal for the Warriors, but Sufian was just unable to turn the ball towards goal after Tatsuro Inui had cut the ball back into his path.
Nonetheless, for all their dominance in the second half, Weaver’s charges were unable to double their tally and Hougang always remained in the game.
In the 70th minute, Diallo chipped a neat ball over the top to Baker, who glanced a header towards goal but Hassan clutched it safely at full stretch.
The game then took a controversial turn in the 81st minute when Kazuyuki Toda raced through after the Hougang players had stopped to allow the ball to be put out of play for an injury, but Karoglan sportingly kicked it out of play from inside the area after it had been played to him.
Still, the Cheetahs were furious with Toda’s apparent lack of sportsmanship and a heated confrontation ensued, with the Japanese and Hougang duo Fadhil and Igor Cerina all receiving cautions.
And just four minutes later, more controversy arose as the visitors equalised after Fairoz found space down the right and chipped in a lovely cross that was turned home from two yards out by Diallo.
The Warriors protested vehemently as they claimed the Hougang man had used his hand to put the ball into the back of the net, but referee Farhad Mohd was having none of it, allowing the Cheetahs to claim a share of the spoils.
Warriors FC: Hassan Sunny, Jeremy Chiang, Abdil Qaiyyim, Daniel Bennett, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Kazuyuki Toda, Shi Jiayi, Tatsuro Inui, Sufian Anuar (Dharham Aziz 68’), Shimpei Sakurada (Erwan Gunawan 75’), Mislav Karoglan.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Faizal Amir, Syaqir Sulaiman, Igor Cerina, Lau Meng Meng, Jerome Baker (Liam Shotton 71’), Fazly Hasan (Azhar Sairudin 55’), Thomas Beattie, Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 76’), Mamadou Diallo, Fairoz Hasan.
Image courtesy of VOXSPORTS (Darren Ho)