Bacina puzzled by insipid Hougang start

Hougang United coach Nenad Bacina admits he was puzzled with his side's slow start in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Gombak United in RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals.

The Frenchman goes on a bursting run.

By Gabriel Tan

The Cheetahs got the first leg of their last-eight tie at the Jurong West Stadium off to the worst start possible as they fell behind after just seven minutes when Julien Durand headed home a Mustaqim Manzur corner to hand Gombak the lead.

And Hougang were arguably fortunate not to have went in at the break behind by a bigger margin as the Bulls failed to convert their dominance into goals.

Two minutes after halftime, the visitors drew level when Jordan Webb glanced home a header, before Ante Barac capped off a remarkable second-half comeback in the 51st minute when his powerful strike was deflected in off Gombak captain Obadin Aikhena.

But despite seeing his side pick up the win in the end, Bacina admits he was not particularly pleased with their attitude in the first half.

"For some reason, it took us until the 40th minute to enter the game," the Croatian told ESPNSTAR.com. "I was a bit mad at halftime.

"We started the game very slowly and hardly looked interested. Gombak were more aggressive than us and won every loose ball.

"We looked like we were Spain and had just won Euro 2012 - the players were just walking around the pitch.

"I also told them to be careful from set-pieces as that was the only way Gombak were going to score again us. And yet, we conceded from a set-piece."

Nonetheless, Bacina did admit he was happy with the way his players eventually responded, although he was keen to stress the tie was far from over.

"We knew we had the quality to win this game and we expected Gombak to play more defensively," he added.

"The equaliser was the turning point of the game - our morale went up from then on. It was a different team that played in the second half.

"It was a good win for us in the end, although I expected us to keep a clean sheet, but it is not the end and it won't be easy in the second leg.

"It will be a new game and we are not going to approach it as though we have an advantage."

Gombak assistant coach Stephen Ng, who took charge of the side in the absence of K. Balagumaran, admitted his players may have gotten slightly ahead of themselves after going in ahead at the break, although he insists the tie is far from over.

"We dominated the first half and we created many chances but just couldn't score more," Ng said. "That's football.

"The first five minutes of the second half really killed us. Perhaps the boys got a little bit overconfident.

"But there is still a lot to play for - this tie is only half over."

Both sides will lock horns again in Saturday's second leg at the Hougang Stadium, with the victor set to meet the winner of the clash between Home United and SAFFC in the semi-finals.



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