SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Hougang United 1
Geylang International 3
The plan included hogging possession, laying siege with set-pieces and dominating play, but three sucker punches saw Hougang United floored 1-3 by Singapore Premier League (SPL) cellar dwellers Geylang International yesterday evening.
To add insult to injury to the hosts at Hougang Stadium before 568 spectators, Geylang's three goals came from just three attempts, ensuring that the Eagles (five points) swopped places with the Cheetahs (three points) at the foot of the nine-team table.
Hougang coach Philippe Aw said forlornly: "They (Geylang) had three chances and finished three times. We had many, many chances but finished only once.
"We can have greater possession, more corners, more free kicks but, to win, you have to put the ball into the net. Clearly that was the big difference."
The defeat, Hougang's fourth in seven games, saw them remain winless alongside Warriors FC.
In contrast, the Geylang camp was buoyant as their fans stayed in the stands after the game to salute Hirotaka Usui's men for earning their first victory of the campaign.
The Japanese tactician said: "I want to say sorry to the fans that it took us so long to win a game.
"When I saw the fans and sponsors smiling after the game, it was the biggest joy for me as the coach."
But he could not have predicted the flying start that set the tone for the match. Only two minutes had elapsed when playmaker Fumiya Kogure floated in a cross from the left for the unmarked Shawal Anuar to head home.
And, on the stroke of half-time, midfielder Fairoz Hasan took advantage of uncertain defending to cross from the right for Shawal to nod in his second.
In the 75th minute, midfielder Azhar Sairudin curled into the top corner from outside the box to make certain of the points.
Hougang scored a consolation three minutes from time through a fierce shot from Iqbal Hussain.
Usui, who saw his men lose five and draw two of their previous seven games, said: "I had expected a low-scoring result, maybe 1-0.
"It's a very tough game as I had three players injured during the match (goalkeeper Zainol Gulam, defender Yuki Ichikawa and midfielder Ryson Yap) but my players were able to work hard and produce the result."
Aw was left to rue his side's good spells that were let down by a lack of a cutting edge.
He said: "From day one, we don't have a striker who can give us 15-20 goals a season. If I could sign one, he will probably be a foreign player.
"But I hope that by giving the local players like Iqbal, Fareez (Farhan) and Shahfiq (Ghani) more playing time up front, they can develop."