Ikhsan and Young Lions keep Hougang rooted at bottom of SPL

Hougang United remain rooted to the bottom of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) table without a win, as Young Lions came from behind to defeat them 2-1 at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night.

Fabian Kwok put the Cheetahs up early in the second half, but Fandi Ahmad’s Young Lions rallied and managed to pick up the three points through goals from Ikhsan Fandi and Naufal Azman.

The result meant Hougang stayed bottom with just three points from eight games, while Young Lions went up a position to fifth with 10 points from six.

The Young Lions were largely on top in the first 45 minutes and won most of the 50-50 challenges, but could not make their dominance count.

Joshua Pereira had the first chance of the game on 11 minutes after dispossessing Syahiran Miswan, but his resulting 20-yard shot whistled past the post.

Hami Syahin then went close on the half-hour mark, with his swerving shot from the edge of the box superbly tipped over by Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid.

Hougang did enjoy a flurry of corners late into the first half, but found little joy against the towering centre-back pairing of Irfan Fandi and Adam Hakeem.

Whatever Hougang coach Philippe Aw said at half-time worked for the Cheetahs, as they took the lead for the first time this season four minutes into the second half on 49.

After skinning his marker on the left, Stanely Ng produced the perfect cutback from the byline for Kwok to slam home first-time albeit through a deflection that wrong-footed Young Lions custodian Zharfan Rohaizad.

However, the visitors took just nine minutes to restore parity. Pereira’s header from Hami’s cross was only parried by Khairulhin to the path of Ikhsan, who slammed home amongst a sea of players for his first-ever SPL goal.

Hougang then went mightily close to retaking the lead on 65 minutes, with Iqbal Hussain’s free kick from the edge of the box crashing off the left-hand post before going out of play.

Young Lions were, however, the more energetic side going into the dying stages of the game and managed to find a winner 11 minutes from time.

Teed up by Ikhsan, substitute Asshukrie Wahid produced a peach of a cross from the right for Naufal to meet with a downward header that flew past Khairulhin’s despairing dive.

The 20-year-old’s second goal in as many games ensured the visitors went home with the three points, despite Hougang’s aerial bombardment late on.

Young Lions will host Brunei DPMM FC next Wednesday, while Hougang will take a two-week break before facing Warriors FC away on Saturday, 2 June.

Hougang United FC Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We played well and controlled proceedings in the first half; then we started the second half with a good goal. But after the goal we switched off and allowed Young Lions back into the game. After the equaliser, they fought hard and it was disappointing to concede the winner from a counter-attack. They had two chances and they scored two.

“We coped well with their set-pieces and if we were more organised in open play, Young Lions wouldn’t have a look in. It’s unbelievable that we don’t win after eight games and (a lack of) confidence is a big factor. We’ll continue to play our brand of football, work hard and hopefully the tide will change.”

Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “We came here with a mission to get at least one point against a good and experienced team, but we got three. We lost out a bit on the sides to their nippy players, but we managed to contain them (in the middle).

“In the second half, we scrapped for every ball. Even little Ashhrukrie was very aggressive and showed good combination play with Ikhsan for the second goal. It wasn’t easy playing in this fasting period, Hami went down with cramp and Irfan was a bit dizzy in the last 10 minutes probably due to a lack of sugar.

“It’s a good win for us after two losses; I hope we can bounce back and be more confident after this win. I’m also happy for Ikhsan – he scored in international games but not in the SPL (before this). Next up for us is DPMM, which won’t be easy with their strong strikers.”

Hougang United FC: Khairulhin Khalid (GK),  Ashrul Syafeeq, Illyas Lee, Adam Mitter, Faiz Salleh (Shahfiq Ghani 84’), Syahiran Miswan, Fabian Kwok (C), Muhaimin Suhaimi, Stanely Ng (Nazrul Nazari 81’), Justin Hui (Fareez Farhan 68’), Iqbal Hussain

Young Lions:  Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), R. Aaravin (Aniq Iskandar 55’), Irfan Fandi (C), Adam Hakeem,Syahrul Sazali, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Joshua Pereira, Hami Syahin, Rusyaidi Salime (Asshukrie Wahid 55’), Ikhsan Fandi, Naufal Azman (Syed Firdaus Hassan 90′)