Hougang keen to do Tampines a favour

Forward Stipe Plazibat (right), Hougang's leading scorer this term with 15 goals, training with the team at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Forward Stipe Plazibat (right), Hougang's leading scorer this term with 15 goals, training with the team at Jalan Besar Stadium.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

National pride is on the line as Hougang United vow to do their part to stop Japanese side Albirex Niigata from sealing the S-League title tonight.

The Cheetahs' coach K Balagumaran said: "We're not going to give them an easy time.

"We hope to do Tampines a favour because at least we should help another local team by giving them a chance to fight for the title, or if not, the second spot.

"We're not going to sit back, defend and park the bus. We've got good results (wins) against big clubs like Tampines and Home and the players are motivated to play well."

A win tonight will also benefit Hougang greatly as they chase qualification for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup for the first time.

The top two local teams qualify for the second-tier continental competition.

Hougang, fourth in the table, are currently the second-best local club in the league behind third-placed Tampines Rovers. Brunei DPMM are second.

Up to this point, Bala admitted that his team have performed above expectations. Last year's cellar dwellers have never finished above seventh in the S-League.

But instead of calculating the permutations as the season reaches its final straight, Hougang are just focusing on their performances on the pitch.

Bala said: "We don't talk about AFC Cup during training sessions, because I believe that for every game, no matter who you face, you just give your best.

"It's other people who have been talking since the start of the season about whether we were going to be the Leicester City of the S-League this season.

"They (the team) have gone beyond our target. So I told the players, there's a chance now (to finish the season well), just go take it.

"The (remaining) three games are important for us. They can determine whether our season will end high or low."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Hougang keen to do Tampines a favour'. Print Edition | Subscribe