Gutsy Harimau Muda stun 10-man Woodlands

Harimau Muda capitalised on an error-strewn performance by hosts Woodlands Wellington to run out 2-1 winners in Tuesday's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League encounter.

Harimau Muda celebrate Maxsius Musa's goal.
Noah Tan

By Noah Tan

Although both teams' initial preparations at the Woodlands Stadium were disrupted following a 30-minute delay to the start of the game due to a heavy downpour, the Young Tigers started brightly and broke the deadlock in the 9th-minute through highly-rated forward Maxsius Musa.

Despite both sides creating several good chances following that early goal, neither were able to apply the finishing touches and the first half finished with the visitors holding a slender lead.

Woodlands put up much more of a fight in the second half as they sought the equalising goal, but their task was made much harder when Shahril Alias was dismissed in the 70th minute for a second bookable offence.

Nonetheless, the Rams did eventually find the back of the net through Khalid Hamdaoui's superb strike four minutes later, but costly miscommunication at the back between Woodlands custodian Ahmadulhaq Che Omar and Atsushi Shimono allowed Harimau substitute Yazid Zaini to score what proved to be the winner seven minutes from time.

Harimau, expected to struggle this season, gave a good account of themselves in last Friday's 1-0 defeat to Albirex Niigata in their season opener, and they picked up where they left off on Tuesday with a spirited start to the game.

It was thus no surprise when they took the lead after just nine minutes, as Maxsius latched onto a brilliant through-ball, raced past Rosman Sulaiman and calmly chipped over the onrushing Ahmadulhaq to open his side's account for the season.

The energetic forward nearly doubled his side's advantage barely three minutes later when he once again took advantage of some slack defending from Rosman to fire a shot at goal from a tight angle on the right, but Ahmadulhaq was alert to the danger and parried the effort to safety.

Harimau were certainly putting themselves about in the early stages of the game, and they came very close to scoring again in the 21st minute when Shreen Tambi fired a superb free-kick from 27 yards out which rattled the crossbar.

The Rams finally created their first chance of note six minutes later when Harimau right-back Ashmawi Yakin's mistimed header allowed the effervescent Hamdaoui a free run at goal, but the former Dutch international took too long on the ball and, under pressure from the recovering Harimau defence, could only fire a weak shot straight at Ilham Amirullah.

Woodlands were slowly gaining in confidence following the lacklustre start, and they came close to equalising in the 40th minute when Chang Jo-yoon sprinted to the touchline on the left and delivered a dangerous low cross into the box for Moon Soon-ho, who made a complete hash of his effort. However, the ball fell kindly to Farizal Basri in the box but the 32-year-old's follow-up attempt on goal was bravely smothered by Ilham.

Hamdaoui was getting more influential as the game wore on, and the final chance of the first half fell to him when he received the ball from 25 yards out and unleashed a fierce shot which just failed to hit the target.

Rams coach Salim knew his side had to perform much better if his side were to live up to his pre-season top three billing and they certainly out of the break a rejuvenated bunch. 

But despite their dominance in possession, it was the visitors who had the first chance of the second period in the 48th minute when Shreen found himself in some space at the edge of the box and unleashed a rasping shot which grazed the crossbar.

That stung the hosts into mustering a response and three minutes later, they created two good opportunities in quick succession.

The first was a long-range effort from Moon which sailed just over the bar, but it was the second opportunity which had the crowd on their feet; Hamdaoui lobbed a fantastic through-pass to Moon, who charged forward into the box and showed great awareness to cut the ball back for Farizal. However, the 32-year-old was once again unable to beat Ilham ,the young custodian making a smart save to keep out a curling effort.

Despite their bright start to the second half, Woodlands still appeared vulnerable in defence and their opponents looked increasingly dangerous on the break, particularly in exploiting Shahril's nervousness. The 29-year-old almost made a costly mistake shortly after when he misjudged a routine header and allowed Akmal Ishak to slip in behind him down the left, but the Harimau striker failed to punish the mistake by screwing a shot just wide of the far post.

That effort turned out to be one of the increasingly-rare forays forward for Harimau as Woodlands piled on the pressure in search for the equaliser.

Moon, their top scorer the previous season, was proving to be a real handful for the visiting defence, and in the 62nd minute, the 32-year-old broke free from his marker with a quick turn, brought the ball to the byline before squaring it into the box for Chang, whose first-time effort went the wrong side of the post.

Six minutes later, a low cross from Rosman found Chang once again in a good position in the box, but the 25-year-old's attempt at goal was well saved by the impressive Ilham.

However, Woodlands' attempt to get back into the game suffered a huge setback in the 70th minute when Shahril, already on a yellow card, compounded his miserable evening by getting sent off when he went in for a late challenge on Ilham following a set-piece situation.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Rams continued to push forward for an equaliser, and they were finally rewarded in the 74th minute when Hamdaoui fired in a superb shot from the edge of the area which nestled into the top corner.

Woodlands' joy proved to be short-lived however, as Harimau regained the lead nine minutes later in farcical circumstances. A hopeful punt forward from the Young Tigers backline appeared to pose no problems, but a poor defensive mix up between Ahmadulhaq and Shimono saw them collide, and Yazid, who had come on for Harimau just two minutes earlier, took full advantage of the golden opportunity to lob the ball straight into an unguarded net.  

The Rams almost fashioned an instant reply four minutes from time; Ilham spilling a routine catch into the path of Moon, whose clever chip beat the Harimau custodian but sailed narrowly wide.

That proved to be the final chance of the game as Harimau managed to hold on to their lead in the face of relentless Woodlands pressure to secure their first points of the S.League season.

Woodlands Wellington: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Cho Sunghwan, Shahril Alias, Khalid Hamdaoui, Atsushi Shimono, Chang Jo-Yoon, Armanizam Dolah (Ridhwan Osman 68'), Moon Soon-Ho, Rosman Sulaiman, Farizal Basri (Taufiq Rahmat 78'), Ang Zhi Wei.

Harimau Muda B: Ashmawi Yakin, Asi Mardzuki, Wan Ahmad Amirzafran, Osman Yusoff, Ridzuan Abdunloh, Akmal Ishak, Shreen Tambi (Nur Areff Kamaruddin 61'), Azzizan Nordin, Ilham Amirullah, Iskandar Hanapiah (Yazid Zaini 81'), Maxsius Musa (S. Vikneswaran 78').

Attendance: 764

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