Cheetahs’ AFC hunt back on after 3-2 win

Cheetahs’ AFC hunt back on after 3-2 win

Hougang United ended their three-match losing run in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) with a 3-2 comeback win over bottom side Tanjong Pagar United yesterday that also revived their AFC Cup qualification bid.

Head coach Clement Teo was satisfied to collect three points after watching his team fall behind to Farihin Farkhan’s 22nd-minute opener but admitted Hougang were sloppy at critical moments.

He said: “Playing an all-local team makes me a little happy but it’s very unfortunate that there were still errors we had adjusted in training. The players need to be more disciplined in what they’re being assigned to do.

“The energy level going forward is something we were very critical about.

“It showed when we started breaking and crossing early and fortunately Anders (Aplin) was there to score (the second goal).”

The visitors’ lead at Hougang Stadium lasted just three minutes as Tanjong Pagar’s Yann Motta conceded a penalty which Shawal Anuar converted. Aplin’s second-half header then put them ahead but a mistake from goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin, who spilled Luiz Junior’s shot into substitute Suria Prakash’s path, levelled the game.

Ridhuan made up for his earlier error by producing important saves to deny Shodai Nishikawa and Junior, before Hougang earned a second penalty in the 88th minute. Substitute Shahfiq Ghani made no mistake to deliver a much-needed win for the hosts.

Hougang are sixth in the eight-team SPL on 15 points but, crucially, just one behind both Balestier Khalsa and Geylang International. Their clash yesterday ended 2-0 in Balestier’s favour.

With two games left, all three are still vying for a berth in next year’s AFC Cup group stage.

Hougang’s next match is at home against Balestier on Wednesday, before they end their campaign against leaders Albirex Niigata next Saturday.

Aplin, 29, called on his teammates for one final push. He said: “Our performance is a step up from our last few games… We just tried to rally ourselves and put in a good performance and we got the result, which is good and takes us very nicely into the last two games.”

For Tanjong Pagar, who are still winless after 12 games, the wait goes on. Team manager Noh Alam Shah said: “We were unlucky but we’re the one who gave away all the goals with a lack of focus.