The Cheetahs produced yet another comeback to shock the uniformed giants, adding the Protectors' scalp to their recent giant-killing conquests in the S.LeagueHougang United put another S.League giant to the sword on Friday night when they stunned Home United in a 3-1 victory to continue their recent trend of slaying big teams.
Following on from 1-0 and 3-2 wins over Albirex Niigata and Warriors FC respectively in their last two games, the Cheetahs took the scalp of yet another side above them in the table and saw themselves move into fifth place - three behind leaders Brunei DPMM, who have a game in hand.
Amin Nasir's men had gone behind first to the Warriors in their previous and they had to earn the three points in similar fashion again, when Fazrul Nawaz put the Protectors ahead after just five minutes.
Firman Hanif's headed clearance from a cross looped back towards his own goal, with custodian Fadhil Salim having already committed himself to coming out. The ball landed perfectly for Fazrul, who simply tapped it into an unguarded net.
Hougang did hit back quickly, with Kwon Da-kyung inadvertently heading Fairoz Hasan's cross into his own goal under pressure from Diego Gama. But the rest of the half was dominated by the uniformed giants, with Fadhil doing superbly to deny Bruno Castanheira and Fazrul, while Camara and Lee also had their chances.
"We were second best, we were lucky to get to 1-1 [at half-time] as they had good chances," Amin admitted after the game. "I told my boys [during the break] that if you allow Home plenty of room, you’d be chasing the game and in the second half, I'm proud we managed to compete with them."
Indeed, it was a much more compact Hougang that emerged in the second half as they effectively neutralised most of their opponents attacks, despite conceding possession. As Home increasingly committed more men forward, the orange shirts punished them on the break - twice.
First, Geison Moura deftly flicked a brilliant finish past Shahril Jantan for his 11th league goal after Azhar Sairudin chipped a lovely ball through for him. Moura then turned provider on 70 minutes as he collected Shunsuke Nakatake's square ball before calmly picking out an unmarked Gama, who smashed his shot past the hapless Shahril.
The deadly Brazilian duo, who account for 19 of the team's 30 goals, came in for praise by Amin, who described them as proven strikers who left "no doubt" about their quality.
The former Singapore international also insisted that he was happy for his team to continue being labelled as underdogs and wants the players to continue their hard work, after being inconsistent last season.
"They are enjoying the wins, it's a sweet and superb feeling," he acknowledged. "We have to put our feet on the ground... and approach [things] one game at a time.
"It’s down to discipline and teamwork. They have to maintain [the consistency] and I am glad they realised that; they've matured to compete at the top level. We believe in our strength and we can compete with any team."
That Hougang managed to pull off the win against a Home side that looked to have more motivation to triumph was even more impressive. The third-placed Bishan outfit would have gone to the top of the table with victory and Lee Lim-saeng rued his team's inability to kill off a "crucial" game in the first half.
"We had chances but we couldn’t finish," the clearly downcast Korean said. "We know they would try to counter-attack... we didn’t create enough chances in the second half.
"As a coach, I take responsibility [for the result]."