S.League: Samba show

S.League: Samba show
SILK AND STEEL: Hougang United striker Diego Gama (in orange) scored twice and impressed with his willingness to hustle, harry and put in challenges.

HOUGANG UNITED 3 (Diego Gama 47, Geison Moura 89, 90+3)

ALBIREX NIIGATA 1 (Kazuki Sakamoto 15)

For the second time in a fortnight, unheralded Hougang United find themselves at the summit of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.

Much of the focus in the build-up to the season was on the likes of champions Tampines Rovers, Home United and DPMM, while few paid any attention to the Cheetahs.

But, after posting a tough 3-1 win over Albirex Niigata on Wednesday night at the Hougang Stadium, the Cheetahs are proving to be a team to be reckoned with.

Shorn of their first-choice centre backs - injured Croatian duo Igor Cerina and Durica Zuparic - Hougang coach Amin Nasir put his faith in former Courts Young Lions defender Firman Hanif and former striker Wahyudi Wahid, playing them together in the heart of the defence.

The experiment looked set to fail, when their lack of familiarity and experience allowed Kazuki Sakamoto to make a clever diagonal run and latch on to Koki Akasaka's through-ball and slot past Fadhil Salim in the 15th minute.

The home side suffered another setback when Hougang goalkeeper Fadhil had to be replaced in the 41st minute by Nazri Sabri after dislocating a finger in an aerial challenge with Sakamoto.

Against all odds, Hougang hit back with some sweet samba and spicy sambal to run out winners.

Their two Brazilian imports impressed not just with their skill, but also their willingness to hustle, harry and put in challenges.

Striker Diego Gama was a thorn in the White Swans' flesh with his physical presence and ability to hold up play, and he headed in smartly off an Azhar Sairudin free-kick just two minutes after the break.

Azhar then struck the bar with another free-kick before Hougang's other Brazilian, Geison Moura, took over with a late double.

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