By Noah TanFollow @@Noah_Tan
Reporting from the Hougang Stadium
The Cheetahs, cheered on by the raucous home fans, quickly settled into the game and took a well-deserved lead in the 34th minute via Azhar Sairudin's wonderful long-range strike.
DPMM, who showed great fighting spirit to secure a last-gasp win over Home United in their previous game, fashioned the perfect response to going a goal down five minutes later when Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman capitalised on some slack defending from the Cheetahs to equalise for his side.
Wasps custodian Wardun Yussof's discomfort at having to deal with high balls into his box was plain for all to see, and the Cheetahs took full advantage of that as Thomas Beattie scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the 60th minute when he fired home from three yards out following the away side's failure to clear from a set-piece as Hougang hung on amidst late DPMM pressure to condemn the Bruneian outfit to their 5th loss of the season.
Having been soundly trounced 3-0 by reigning league champions Tampines Rovers just three days ago, Hougang understandably started the game cautiously, and they very nearly paid the price for their tentative opening.
Capitalising on some sloppy defending by the Cheetahs, Adi Said found himself through on goal with only Fadhil Salim to beat in the second minute, but the DPMM forward dallied too long on the ball and the recovering Syaqir Sulaiman managed to nick the ball off him before he could pull the trigger.
Four minutes later, DPMM came even closer to opening the scoring when Azwan Saleh burst past a static Faizal Amir on the left before firing a fierce shot from a tight angle which cannoned off the post.
That seemed to wake the Cheetahs out of their stupor; with Johana driving his team on from the touchlines, Hougang picked up the pace of their game, bossed possession and tested DPMM custodian Wardun Yussof with several dangerous crosses into the box.
The Cheetahs created their first real chance of the game in the 14th minute when a Beattie free-kick from 25-yards out was deflected narrowly wide. From the resulting corner, Syaqir jumped highest to meet the ball, but he could only direct his header over the bar.
Despite Hougang's dominance, DPMM's defence, helmed by the excellent Tales Dos Santos, was proving difficult to break down. The Cheetahs needed something special to breach Wardun's goal, and it duly came in the 34th minute courtesy of Azhar as he picked up a loose ball from 25-yards out and unleashed a rasping shot which nestled into the top corner of the net.
But the Cheetahs' lead lasted only five minutes. Fadhil weak punch from a DPMM corner fell to Shahrulrizal in the box, the veteran defender took one touch to bring the ball under control, before swivelling and volleying the ball into the back of the net.
There was a 10 minute delay during the break due to inclement weather, but the hold-up did not seem to affect Hougang as they began the second half confidently and went on the attack right from the get-go.
Liam Shotton's immense physique was causing all sorts of problems for DPMM's defence, and the Englishman was presented with a golden opportunity to put his side back in the lead in the 52nd minute when he was brilliantly set up in the box by the lively Azhar, but the Englishman's goalbound shot was excellently parried away by Wardun.
That near miss only seemed to buoy the Cheetahs, and it was no surprise when they retook the lead eight minutes later when a free-kick into the DPMM box found its way to Beattie at the far-post, and the 27-year-old simply tapped the ball home from close range.
Shotton almost extended the home team's lead in the 65th minute when he cleverly made space for himself from 25-yards out before unleashing a low shot which left Fadhil rooted to the spot, but the ball took a slight deflection and missed the goal by a hair's breadth.
Despite being pegged back in their own half for majority of the second half, DPMM gave a reminder of the considerable threat they posed on the break in the 73rd minute when Hendra Azam picked up a loose ball at the edge of the area and fired a dipping shot at goal which just clipped the top of the bar.
As the game neared its conclusion, DPMM poured men forward in search of an equaliser, and they were very nearly caught out on the break deep into injury time when the outstanding Mamadou Diallo played a neat through pass for substitute Basit Hamid, but the 26-year-old's subsequent shot was well saved by Wardun. Basit's miss ultimately proved inconsequential as the Cheetahs bravely hung on to record their third consecutive home win of the season.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Syaqir Sulaiman, Hasree Zais, Lau Meng Meng, Faizal Amir, Thomas Beattie, Nurhilmi Jasni (Fairoz Hasan 85'), Fazli Jaffar (Shahir Hamzah 83'), Azhar Sairudin, Mamadou Diallo, Liam Shotton (Basit Hamid 87')
Brunei DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Tales Dos Santos, Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman, Pg Sallehuddin Damit, Sairol Sahari (Awangku Fakharrazi 88'), Azwan Saleh (Joao Moreira 72'), Hendra Azam, Rosmin Kamis, Helmi Zambin, Adi Said, Shahrazen Said