Gombak deal blow to Harimau hopes

Harimau Muda's bid to win the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League took a real blow on Sunday evening after they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Gombak United.

Zulfadhli delighted to open the scoring!

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

Following a goalless first half, the Bulls opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Zulfadhli Emran scored with a long-range drive that Izham Tarmizi should have dealt with, before Jung Hee-bong added a second with a close-range header.

Wan Zack Haikal pulled one back for Harimau in the 67th minute when he clinically dispatched a penalty after Thamil Arasu had been brought down inside the area, but Ong Kim Swee's charges were unable to find another and remain 11 points behind leaders Tampines Rovers.

Despite having an RHB Singapore Cup semi-final clash against SAFFC in three days' time to think about, Gombak coach K. Balagumaran opted to field a strong side and handed young striker Ahmad Suhaimi a chance to impress.

Seven minutes in, the 21-year-old nearly made an instant impact when he met a searching cross by K. Vikraman with a delicate header over the stranded Izham, only to see it come back off the crossbar.

Two minutes later, it was Harimau's turn to be denied by the woodwork when Bulls goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam expected a long-range strike by Thamil Arasu to drift wide, and was fortunate to see it smash into the post.

Having had their previous matches cancelled midway through the second half due to inclement weather last Thursday, both sides were looking extremely energetic and it was the hosts that carved out the next chance in the 19th minute when Ahmad Hazwan made a darting run to the near post and met a Mahalli Jasuli cross with a glancing header that was just wide.

Seven minutes after the half-hour mark, Hazwan had another sighting at goal when he drilled a shot wide from the edge of the area, before it was D. Saarvindran's turn to try his luck from distance and send an effort wide five minutes later.

While Harimau were starting to get the lion's share of possession, the visitors looked very dangerous on the counter and were unlucky not to open the scoring on the stroke of halftime. Following good build-up play from Ahmad, who held up the ball well before spreading it wide, Vikraman tore down the right and cut inside onto his left foot, before curling a shot that came back off the bar having beaten Izham all ends up.

Nonetheless, it took the Bulls just six minutes after the break to open the scoring, when the impressive Zulfadhli strode forward and, with no opponent closing him down, decided to let fly from 25 yards. Despite it being a fairly tame effort, Izham inexplicably dived early and was left wrongfooted, and could only watch as the ball rolled past him and into the back of the net.

The Harimau goalkeeper did however make amends in the 55th minute later when he did well to deny Julien Durand, who had hammered an effort towards goal from 12 yards after a shot from substitute Jung had been blocked by Shahrul Saad and rolled straight to the Frenchman.

Five minutes later, Durand was once again left wondering how he had failed to find the back of the net after he met a pinpoint delivery from Vikraman with a firm header just outside the six-yard box, only to see Izham tip it away with a flying save down low.

By now, Gombak were really starting to trouble their opponents, with Jung causing all sorts of problems to the Harimau backline, despite struggling for form all season long. And his introduction proved to be an inspired move by Balagumaran in the 64th minute when he outjumped Izham and nodded a header backwards and into the unguarded net, after a Vikraman cross had been deflected by Fadhli Shas straight up into the air.

But in the 66th minute, the Malaysian outfit were handed a lifeline when they were controversially awarded a penalty after Thamil went down inside the area under a challenge by Ismail Yunos, allowing Wan Zack to step up and plant his effort into the bottom corner.

Buoyed at pulling a goal back, the hosts began to look livelier and started to press forward, with Wan Zack looking the likeliest to create something for them.

He went on a jinking run down the right in the 76th minute and fired in a dangerous cross that was booted away by the alert Obadin, before striking a 25-yard effort ten minutes later that forced Zaiful into action.

Still, Gombak refused to budge and were left to celebrate an impressive and well-deserved victory when referee Leow Thiam Hoe blowed the final whistle.

Harimau Muda: Izham Tarmizi, Mahalli Jasuli, Affize Faisal, Fadhli Shas, Nazirul Naim (Fandi Othman 72), Wan Zack Haikal, Gary Robbat, D. Saarvindran (Shahrul Saad 52'), Wan Zaharulnizam, Thamil Arasu, Ahmad Hazwan (Syahrul Azwari 77').

Gombak United: Zaiful Nizam, Ismail Yunos, Obadin Aikhena, Walid Lounis, Nurullah Hussein, K. Vikraman, Zulfadhli Emran, Christopher Anderson, Mustaqim Manzur (Jung Hee-bong 46'), Julien Durand (Hafiz Rahim 65'), Ahmad Suhaimi (Amin Rossady 88').

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