The Big Match

DPMM SPL champions as Hougang stumble

Cheetahs' 4-4 draw with Geylang hands title to Brunei DPMM, who have 2 games in hand

Hougang United's Faris Ramli showing his disappointment at a missed opportunity during his team's Singapore Premier League match against Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub yesterday. The game ended in a 4-4 draw.
Hougang United's Faris Ramli showing his disappointment at a missed opportunity during his team's Singapore Premier League match against Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub yesterday. The game ended in a 4-4 draw. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Geylang International 4

Hougang United 4

Brunei DPMM head coach Adrian Pennock must have imagined winning the Singapore Premier League (SPL) would have seen him pumping his fists on the touchline after a hard-fought and sweat-soaked 90 minutes of football.

Instead, his side sewed up the league title sitting on comfortable chairs inside an air-conditioned restaurant in Bandar Seri Begawan last night.

Pennock and about 100 others - DPMM players, staff, and fans - were spectators as the restaurant screened the 4-4 draw between Geylang International and second-placed Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub yesterday. The result means DPMM are Singapore football champions for the first time since 2015.

The Bruneian side hold an unassailable lead at the summit of the SPL and will win the league even if they lose their remaining two matches - both at home - against Tampines Rovers on Wednesday and Hougang on Sept 29.

DPMM are on 47 points while Hougang are on 43, with the Cheetahs having only one game left.

Pennock told The Straits Times: "The restaurant we were in had put the game on a big projector screen, and at the end everyone went crazy.

"There was confetti everywhere, 'We Are The Champions' by Queen was playing, it was fantastic.

"I'm so proud of the players and everyone connected with DPMM. The SPL is a very tough league to win."

Former Bournemouth defender Pennock admitted his "emotions went up and down" many times during yesterday's game.

Geylang had led 3-0 inside the opening half hour, with all three goals scored by Hougang's chief tormentor, their former player Fareez Farhan. The 25-year-old had played for the Cheetahs in 2015, 2017 and 2018 before joining Geylang this year.

Shahfiq Ghani and Faris Ramli then pulled back goals for Hougang on either side of half-time, but Shawal Anuar made it 4-2 to Geylang in the 70th minute off a counter-attack.

Refusing to lie down, Hougang rallied with two goals in the final 15 minutes - Shahfiq and Faris both getting their second goals of the evening - but a winner proved elusive.

Hougang coach Clement Teo said the individual defensive mistakes his side committed in the first half were "terrible", but was sanguine about conceding the title.

"It is something that happens in football," he said.

"I suppose yes, the pressure got to the players in the first 30 minutes, but I look at their performance in the second half and I cannot ask for more. It shows how much they wanted it."

Geylang coach Noor Ali said: "DPMM are deserving winners, they have been very consistent throughout the season.

"It doesn't matter if it is a local or foreign team that win the league. But stepping up and being at the foreign teams' level is something we have to try and do as local sides."

The last local team to win the SPL were Warriors FC in 2014, when the league was known as the S-League. After DPMM won in 2015, Albirex won three straight titles from 2016.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2019, with the headline DPMM SPL champions as Hougang stumble. Subscribe