Football: Attack is 'best form of defence' for Hougang United

(From left) Hougang United FC players Faris Ramli, Khairulhin Khalid, Afiq Yunos and Kong Howon. Hougang are fourth on 23 points and scored 29 goals from 14 games.
(From left) Hougang United FC players Faris Ramli, Khairulhin Khalid, Afiq Yunos and Kong Howon. Hougang are fourth on 23 points and scored 29 goals from 14 games.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - When they met earlier this season in April, Hougang United ran out 4-2 victors over 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 - six - among the top four sides in the nine-team Singapore Premier League.

But shipping in 23 goals in 14 matches this season isn't 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 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 (4-2 on April 24).

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