The league's second-bottom team dealt the uniformed giants' hopes of finishing second a blow with a superb victory that could have been even largerIt was a result most fans wouldn’t have seen coming, but by the end of the S.League clash between Home United and Hougang United on Thursday night, there was no doubt the latter were just victors.
After ending a seven-game losing streak with a 2-1 win against Harimau Muda in their last game, the Cheetahs built on that with a stunning 3-0 triumph against the third-placed Protectors.
The early pressure came from the visitors as both Fazli Jaffar and Azhar Sairudin sent their efforts from distance wide, although their opponents nearly broke the deadlock with their first genuine attempt.
Jordan Webb’s smart run into the left of the box was well spotted by Lee Kwan Woo, whose pass was met with an attempted lob over onrushing goalkeeper Fadhil Salim that landed on the roof of the net on 13 minutes.
The momentum then swung back to the Cheetahs, Nurhilmi Jasni driving the ball into the side netting before Fairoz Hasan hit a powerful effort straight at a grateful Shahril Jantan.
Shahril was then relieved to see Mamadou Diallo knock the ball over after Sevki Sha’ban did well to get a boot to a cross, only for the ball to float up into the air. That forced the Guinean striker to stretch for a touch as Shahril rushed out, which was enough to force the shot over the bar.
But the Home goalkeeper fluffed his lines on the half-hour mark when he let Fazli Jaffar’s freekick from the right slip through his hands and over the line, gifting Hougang a fortunate but deserved lead.
Lee could have equalised three minutes later, but Fadhil got a vital fingertip to the Korean’s freekick from the edge of the box.
The game then saw two awful misses as half-time approached.
First, Fairoz Hasan dinked his shot wide over Shahril after robbing Sirina Camara to race clear and go one-on-one, before Firdaus Idros somehow failed to convert right in front of goal from Sevki’s flick-on.
Home boss Lee Lim Saeng rang the changes at the break as he brought on Nur Hizami and Choi Jae-won, but they were indebted to Shahril for making a fine block on Fairoz after Nurhilmi had sent him through.
Sevki then headed Lee’s freekick wide, and the Protectors were punished for that when Diallo doubled Hougang’s lead three minutes later.
Cutting in from the left, the 23-year-old saw the ball bounce off a defender and back into his path for him to slam it past Shahril at the near post.
Stunned, Home rallied but found Fadhil in an unyielding mood as the custodian did superbly to deflect Nur’s close-range effort over, before parrying Juma’at Jantan’s 25-yard cracker at full stretch.
It got even worse for the hosts on 75 minutes when Jerome Baker made it 3-0 eight minutes after coming on, ghosting in at the far post to convert Azhar Sairudin’s cross.
Diallo then spurned a glorious opportunity to grab his second when he deftly lifted the ball over Shahril after breaking into the box, only to see it bounce back off the post as he prepared to wheel away in celebration.
A four-goal winning margin would not have flattered Hougang against an out-of-sorts Home side, but as it was, caretaker coach Amin Nasir will be delighted at a terrific result that also meant a double over the same opposition this term.