SINGAPORE - Hougang United coach Clement Teo's faith in midfielder Farhan Zulkifli was rewarded on Saturday (June 29) as the teenager scored on his Singapore Premier League (SPL) debut.
Farhan's strike also made him the second-youngest goal scorer in the league at 16 years and 231 days old and set the tone for Hougang's 2-0 win over Home United at the Bishan Stadium.
Cheetahs captain Fazrul Nawaz scored the second goal in the 78th minute to seal the victory, which sees Hougang move to third in the league table with 22 points, overtaking Tampines Rovers (20 points) as the best local club.
Brunei DPMM (30 points) and Albirex Niigata (24 points) are the top two.
Farhan's goal in the 12th minute came after he pounced on a ball that Home defender Aqhari Abdullah lost, and slammed the ball into the top corner.
Hariss Harun, who was 16 years and 174 days old when he scored for the Young Lions in 2007, remains the youngest goal scorer in the league.
Farhan is still part of Hougang's Under-18 team, and Teo said the decision to include him in the starting line-up was based on instinct. He added: "Sometimes coaches just have this gut feel. I told him to go in, enjoy himself and take on the player when (they are) one-on-one.
"(Gut feel aside), players have to have the basic abilities to play at the highest level in Singapore. He's shown his composure and he's trained well with the other players - everyone is very happy for him and he has the ability to play, but he must keep his feet on the ground and not get carried away."
Hougang declined to let any of their players speak to the media.
Farhan is also the third-youngest league debutant behind Vasileios Zikos Chua (16 years 80 days) and Hariss (16 years 110 days), who made their debuts last year and in 2007 respectively.
Home United coach Mohamed Noh Rahman, who previously coached Farhan on a youth team, was not surprised by the latter's performance.
"He has good potential but it remains to be seen whether he can step up to the next level," said Rahman, adding that it was a "pity" his side could not convert their possession into goal-scoring chances.
Home captain Shahril Ishak was sent off in the 55th minute, which Rahman believes led to an "uphill task" for the remaining 10 men.
"Credit to (Hougang), they made it difficult for us with eight or nine players behind the ball and were disciplined in staying in their own position," he added.
"(We need to) try to get into the goal-scoring area or create more chances in the box, and improve to make fewer mistakes."