Song Ui-Young has labeled Home United striker Shahril Ishak as a genius as they seek to continue their superb attacking partnership in the Singapore Premier League game against Hougang United on Wednesday.
The Korean midfielder has been one of the standout performers of the league so far and is becoming a vital cog in the Protectors’ den under the guidance of Aidil Sharin.
Up against a winless Hougang United at the Hougang Stadium on Wednesday evening, Home United will be keen to snatch maximum points against former coach Philippe Aw’s charges.
BACKGROUND: The question on everyone’s lips before the season started was, how can Home challenge for silverware after losing so many key players? After all, they lost Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Faris Ramli and 37-goal machine Stipe Plazibat – all of whom played prominent roles in their road to becoming AFC Cup ASEAN finalists and finishing third in the league.
However the Protectors’ class of 2018 showed that they are not too far behind by seeing off champion sides from Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar to qualify for the AFC Cup zonal semis as group F winners. Last Wednesday’s 2-0 upset of Ceres Negro at Panaad Stadium has made many take notice – given that they dished out the Busmen’s first AFC Cup defeat in Bacolod since 2016.
Success does come at a price though as Aidil’s side face up to the daunting task of seven matches in 25 days in May. The first leg of the AFC Cup zonal semifinal against Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta falls on the 8th – after league games against Hougang and Warriors FC. They will then play Tampines Rovers FC on 12th, before going away to Jakarta for the second leg three days later.
To pull through this tough month, they will definitely need attackers Song and Shahril to continue their rich vein of form. The former has six goals and two assists in all competitions, while the latter is the only player to have scored in every SPL match so far.
This upcoming game against Hougang gives them the chance to close the nine-point gap between them and leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S), as they currently stand in sixth with two wins and two defeats.
“It’s going to be tough, especially with the next five games in 14 days so we have to manage very carefully,” Song told FOX Sports Asia.
“For myself, I just have to focus on my job – which is to break the opponent’s defence and score goals for the team. I’m happy to be partners with Shahril in attack, he’s a genius and a great player who I can learn from.”
On the other hand, it has been a season of few positives so far for Hougang as they sit second-from-bottom with two draws and two defeats. It is their worst start to a campaign since 2015 when it took them the 11th time of asking to get their first win – they finished bottom that year.
At the very least, Aw’s can count on being unbeaten at home – having come from behind in the second half to salvage 1-1 draws against Warriors and Balestier Khalsa FC. Their boisterous bunch of supporters, affectionately named as the Hougang HOOLs, will be out in full force again as the Cheetahs target an unlikely first win against Home.
“It’s not the start that we wanted, but we’re raring to go for this game. We need to start picking up points and climb up the table,” said first-choice goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid. “The HOOLs deserve something for what they have done for us all these years and we want to put up a good performance for them.”
Home United Football Club were in devastating form as they cruised to a 4-1 win over Geylang International FC in the @SiGreat Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League at the weekend.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Sunday, 22 April 2018
TEAM NEWS: The game has come too soon for Hougang forward Antoine Viterale as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, while club teammate Jordan Chan is also out due to a shoulder problem. Meanwhile Home’s French defender Sirina Camara is unavailable for a third game running due to injury.
Hougang United FC: LLDLD
Home United FC: LWLWW
26/11/17 Home 1-0 Hougang – Singapore Cup
15/10/17 Hougang 0-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
10/07/17 Home 1-1 Hougang – League Cup
30/06/17 Home 2-3 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
09/04/17 Hougang 0-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United FC)
Unexpectedly left on the bench the last time out against Balestier, Nazrul came on and almost grabbed the winner as a substitute. That puts the wide man well in contention to return into the starting eleven.
The 27-year-old’s blistering pace will come in handy against former LionsXII teammate Shakir Hamzah as he looks to provide the ammunition for Iqbal Hussain and company.
Izzdin Shafiq (Home United FC)
Being selected for the Protectors captaincy this season seems to have done Izzdin a world of good as he has rediscovered the form which saw him emerge as one of the most promising midfielders in the country.
The 27-year-old has gotten above 80 percent for his passing success rate in half of their AFC Cup matches this season, with his vision and distribution a key component of Aidil’s jigsaw puzzle.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid: “I have a much-changed defence in front of me this season and it’s key for us to communicate well with each other. Apart from stopping Shahril and Song, we have to win the battle in midfield. If we can do that, we stand a chance of causing an upset.”
Home midfielder Song Uiyoung: “Last year my season was disrupted by injuries so I’m taking really good care this year to avoid them. I’ve gotten great help from my teammates to score goals so far, but it’s still a long way from what I’ve set out to achieve. I feel the responsibility this year as each team only get two foreigners.”
Photo credit: Home United FC Facebook