Anumanthan winner takes Protectors past Hougang to go third in SPL

M. Anumanthan’s speculative second-half goal was enough to help Home United sink his former employers Hougang United 1-0 in a tight Singapore Premier League (SPL) affair at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday evening.

Bottom-placed Hougang had their fair share of chances in the game, but live to rue those misses as they remained four points adrift of eighth-placed Geylang International but have a game in hand.

Meanwhile Home reclaimed third spot with the win, three points clear of Brunei DPMM FC albeit having played three games more.

After getting four points from their past two matches, Hougang came into this game with much confidence and they almost went ahead after just nine minutes.

Off Justin Hui’s chipped ball into the area, Fabian Kwok got the better of Home goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah. The Hougang Captain looked set to convert into an empty net, but Faizal Roslan came out of nowhere to deny him on the line.

Home were largely on top for the rest of the first half, but were unable to trouble Khairulhin Khalid in the Hougang goal.

Captain Izzdin Shafiq spurned two efforts from range, while Shakir Hamzah could not keep his volley down from just outside the area.

Hougang returned for the second half with much more vigour and should have scored on two opportunities shortly after the break.

In the 50th minute, French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale slammed wide with just Rudy to beat after being picked out by a superb Stanely Ng ball over the top.

Five minutes later, Viterale’s 25-yard shot was spilled by Rudy but Ng’s follow-up was well blocked by Home cente-back Abdil Qaiyyim.

Clement Teo’s charges were made to pay for their profligacy as the deadlock was finally broken by Home on 57 minutes.

With the Hougang defence failing to clear their lines, Anumanthan seized the opening to lash in a speculative 30-yard shot that flew past a late-diving Khairulhin for his first league goal of the season.

Teo reacted by throwing on Nurhilmi Jasni and Fareez Farhan to replace Illyas Lee and Ng respectively thereafter. However the Cheetahs were unable to replicate the heroics that saw them come from two goals down to claim a 3-3 draw in the earlier head-to-head this season.

Home were unable to find a second goal to settle their nerves late on though, with Shahril Ishak missing a gilt-edged opportunity from six yards out in the 87th minute after being picked out by a Shakir deep cross.

Aidil Sharin’s charges eventually held on for the win and will take some confidence into their next game as they face Warriors FC away in the Uniformed Derby on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Hougang face the arduous task of toppling runaway leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) at Hougang Stadium on the same night.

Home United FC Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “It’s a good win, considering we did not win for the past two matches and we had a few key players missing. We had so many chances, but we were lacking the final touch in the opponents’ half and Song (Ui-Young) was not there. But I got a feeling we will score a goal and we got the three points at the end of the day.

“Before Anu (Anumanthan) joined Home, he rarely scored. But now he’s scoring in the AFC Cup and in the league. He understands that he’s not just a defensive player. Arshad (Shamim) did well (at right back) against a foreigner (Viterale) and he’s improving. Hopefully we have a fit squad on the 8th against Tampines (Rovers FC) and does not show signs of rustiness.”

Hougang United FC Caretaker Head Coach Clement Teo: “Look – all good things must to an end. Yes we did well in the previous two matches, but that’s football. We can lose, but what’s more important is that the players worked terribly hard and gave their best.  We got to give credit to them.

“No one likes to lose, but the bottom line is that they understand the tactical behaviour and bounce back for the next game. Right now I don’t want to comment – he’s (Chang Jo-Yoon) still with us (on trial) and we have not confirmed anything yet. Ultimately whoever comes, we have to give Albirex a run for their money (on Wednesday) and who knows if we might beat them?”

Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Arshad Shamim, Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, M. Anumanthan, Izzdin Shafiq (C), Hafiz Nor, Suhairi Sabri (Iqram Rifqi 56’), Amy Recha (Christopher Van Huizen 77’), Shahril Ishak (Amiruldin Asraf 90’)

Hougang United FC: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Faiz Salleh, Adam Mitter , Illyas Lee (Nurhilmi Jasni 66’), Jordan Vestering, Justin Hui, Iqbal Hussain, Syahiran Miswan (Syukri Bashir 81’), Fabian Kwok (C), Antoine Viterale, Stanely Ng (Fareez Farhan 66’)