Match Of The Week

Attack is 'best form of defence'

Hougang United players (from far left) Afiq Yunos, Kong Ho-won and Paulin Mbaye training on Thursday ahead of today's match against Albirex at Jurong East.
Hougang United players (from far left) Afiq Yunos, Kong Ho-won and Paulin Mbaye training on Thursday ahead of today's match against Albirex at Jurong East.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Hougang coach Teo says main concern is not conceding goals but earning points

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Albirex Niigata v Hougang United

Jurong East, 5.30pm

When they met earlier this season in April, Hougang United ran out 4-2 victors over three-time defending champions Albirex Niigata in a six-goal thriller.

Today's return match at the Jurong East Stadium may well be a high-scoring affair again, with the Cheetahs having the worst goal difference (+6) among the top four sides in the nine-team Singapore Premier League.

But shipping in 23 goals in 14 matches this season is not Hougang coach Clement Teo's biggest worry.

The 53-year-old said: "The lapse in concentration during past matches has cost us.

"But our main worry is not about conceding goals, it's about getting points.

"Attack will be our best form of defence and we will not sit back.

"But we need to tighten up from the first line of defence to the last line of defence, we know that the whole Albirex team are technically gifted and they play very well together."

Hougang are fourth on 23 points and have scored 29 goals from 14 games.

They are behind leaders Brunei DPMM (31 points from 14 games), who will play the Young Lions today. Three-time defending champions Albirex (30 points from 14) are second.

Even with the constant rotation between goalkeepers Khairulhin Khalid and Ridhuan Barudin, defender Afiq Yunos is confident that whoever is between the posts today will keep a clean sheet.

"My first priority is always to keep a clean sheet and I think all of our goalkeepers are equally good and comfortable at the back," he said.

"We conceded a lot in the first few games but we have been improving at the back.

"We need to press more and take more shots to win this game."

The White Swans, on the other hand, still hope to keep pace with DPMM in the title race, despite missing key players against Hougang.

The Japanese side will be without injured players Noor Akid Nordin, Shuhei Sasahara, Daizo Horikoshi, Kodai Sumikawa, Daniel Martens and Makito Hatanaka.

Head coach Keiji Shigetomi, 40, said: "We are confident about catching the league leaders, as long as we focus on getting all three points in the coming matches.

"This will be an opportunity for the bench players to stake their place in the team. We trust in our football philosophy."

Albirex captain Kyoga Nakamura considers the match against Hougang a "must win" in order to put pressure on DPMM.

The former Japan Under-17 midfielder said: "Everyone is training at a very high intensity, we want to put the pressure on the league leaders and we don't want to lose to Hougang again.

"If we stick to our style of play, we will be able to keep winning. We just have to run harder and press quicker."


OTHER SPL GAMES

YESTERDAY 

Geylang International 2 Home United 3

TODAY 

Young Lions v Brunei DPMM

Jalan Besar, 5.30pm

TOMORROW

Tampines Rovers v Warriors FC 

Our Tampines Hub, 5.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2019, with the headline 'Attack is 'best form of defence''. Print Edition | Subscribe