SINGAPORE - Hougang United are on the rise following back-to-back victories against the top two teams in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
Faris Ramli scored from the spot in the sixth minute to set the tone for their 3-1 win against league leaders Brunei DPMM at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday (July 19) night.
Captain Zulfahmi Arifin doubled the Cheetahs' lead in the 33rd minute with a free kick, but Blake Ricciuto halved the deficit when he pulled one back for the Wasps at the end of the first half.
But any hope of a comeback was extinguished when substitute Nazrul Nazari sealed the win with a shot into the top corner in the 78th minute.
With the result, Hougang remain third in the nine-team league with 29 points, behind leaders DPMM (34) and Albirex Niigata (31).
After beating Albirex 2-1 last week, Hougang head coach Clement Teo is cool about joining DPMM and Albirex in the title race.
He said: "We managed to score early and it is very important as it settles the team.
"But they made it very hard for us, I spent 25 minutes shouting in the second half and not being able to sit.
"With this win, we have to train harder and work even harder. The title isn't ours just because we beat the two foreign teams above us."
DPMM headed into the game with their captain Hendra Azam Idris suspended and they made a late change before kick-off after veteran goalkeeper Wardun Yussof injured his hand in the warm-up.
DPMM coach Adrian Pennock said: "It looked like Wardun broke his finger in the warm-up. It was a big blow for us at the start.
"Young Haimie (Nyaring) gave away an early penalty, but that was an innocence of youth really.
"The second goal that we conceded came too easily and the third goal killed the game.
"But we showed a lot of character, got a couple of half-chances but Hougang defended really well.
"We learnt that in this league, anybody can beat anyone on their day."
Afiq Yunos credited his team's mindset for the back-to-back wins.
He said: "We learnt from our mistakes in the past matches when we probably took things too lightly.
"Now, we have the mentality that we want to prove that we are better than the teams we play against.
"We have good players in the team and we just have to take our chances and focus in the coming matches."
In the other match on Friday, Warriors drew 3-3 with Balestier Khalsa at the Jurong East Stadium.