SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Albirex Niigata 1
Hougang United 2
Hougang United's Stipe Plazibat had a hand in all three goals as he regained his goalscoring form in the 2-1 Singapore Premier League victory over Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium yesterday.
He opened the scoring in the 25th minute from the penalty spot, before stealing in behind the hosts' defence to slot home six minutes later for his sixth goal of the season.
After the break, Plazibat turned "creator", with his back pass being pounced on by Zamani Zamri, who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin in the 54th minute.
Singapore Premier League goals for Stipe Plazibat this season.
"My heart stopped when it happened. I did not see the forward when I passed the ball back to the goalkeeper," said Plazibat. "I was praying to finish the game with three points, so it's a relief that we kept our focus and saw it through."
The 29-year-old Croat dropped back into midfield in the closing stages as the Cheetahs held on, with Albirex having a goal disallowed for offside on 85 minutes.
Hougang head coach Clement Teo praised his side for holding on, saying: "The boys did well and they did what is needed after our defeat by the Young Lions.
"Albirex have a strong side and were giving us a hard time but the boys were brilliant today.
"They executed the game plan well, showed commitment and took their chances well."
The result pushed Hougang up to third in the nine-team table on 26 points behind Albirex, who lost ground on leaders Brunei DPMM.
DPMM widened the gap at the top to four points with their 1-0 win over the Young Lions yesterday.
With the White Swans missing key players like Shuhei Sasahara and Daizo Horikoshi, coach Keiji Shigetomi lamented his team's lack of incisiveness.
He said: "I told the team that there are a lot of supporters at our home game today and we cannot embarrass ourselves.
"We conceded two soft goals in the first half and it left us on the back foot. The players worked very hard but, if you don't take your chances, it is very difficult to win.
"They have to work on their precision in the final third and press harder in the following games."