| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI DPMM FC suffered their second loss in the AIA Singapore Premier League after they went down 3-1 to Hougang United FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore last night.
The match has been treated with great importance for either side but it was Hougang who renewed their title hopes after closing the gap at the top of the table to just five points.
Albirex Niigata (S)’s dropped points at the Bishan Stadium to Home United FC also did not prove damaging in the end as they are still in the frame trailing by just three points.
The league leaders endured a major setback after first-choice goalkeeper Wardun Yussof suffered an injury during the pre-match warm-up.
The hosts were awarded a penalty in the fifth minute after Wardun’s replacement Haimi Anak Nyaring was adjudged to have brought down Faris Ramli in the box.
The winger duly converted from the spot to continue his incredible scoring streak against the Brunei-based outfit, having scored a flurry of goals notably during his spell with former employers Home United FC.
Danger revisited as Hafiz Sujad had a crack from distance which took a slight deflection as Haimie spilled the ball, but Charlie Clough was on hand to clear the rebound.
The visitors had a miraculous escape after Farhan Zulkifli failed to capitalise on a defence that went flat and being played onside after receiving a long ball from Hougang captain Zulfahmi Arifin. But the Cheetahs doubled their lead after Zulfahmi unleashed a perfect strike from a set-piece in the 33rd minute.
Azwan Ali Rahman looked a lively performer in an attempt to get a goal back and he opened up space to make a shot which was well covered in the back by the magnificent Zulfahmi, with Andrei Varankou heavily involved in the build-up.
The Gegar Gegar men received a further blow after foreign import Varankou limped off injured as Azwan Salleh made way.
DPMM FC were handed a lifeline deep into the first half as midfielder Blake Ricciuto poked home a neat finish after Clough’s header into the box was not dealt with by the defence.
The danger was in the cards as Iqbal Hussain shrugged off the challenge of Ricciuto in the middle of the park before feeding Faris who picked up Stipe Plazibat. The striker’s shot was blocked.
The Cheetahs restored their two-goal cushion as Nazrul Nazari came off the bench to score. The substitute struck a powerful shot first time after being teed up by Faris.