SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Hougang United 4
Geylang International 1
Hougang United's dead-eye over the dead-ball, Zulfahmi Arifin, proved the difference in the 4-1 romp over Geylang International at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday that lifted the Cheetahs to second in the Singapore Premier League.
The Hougang skipper provided assists for Jordan Vestering (7th minute) and Afiq Yunos (67th), from a corner kick and a free kick respectively, with Amir Zalani (55th) and Fazrul Nawaz (83rd) scoring the home side's other goals.
A header by Dutch midfielder Barry Maguire in the 49th minute had given Geylang hope for a fightback, but proved mere consolation.
Geylang coach Noor Ali said the difference in quality between the two sides was telling - only four in his matchday squad have earned Singapore caps, compared to half of Hougang's 18-man team.
"We had our chances but, at the end of the day, quality is what counts," said the 43-year-old.
"They don't pay Zulfahmi (well) for no reason, and his delivery of the ball was something we found very hard to contain."
Zulfahmi, 27, recently scored his first international goal for Singapore, curling home a fine free kick from 25m in the 1-1 draw with Oman on March 23.
They don't pay Zulfahmi (well) for no reason, and his delivery of the ball was something we found very hard to contain.
NOOR ALI, Geylang International coach, on Zulfahmi Arifin's influence.
Aside from his pinpoint deliveries yesterday, he was also a calming influence on the Hougang backline, playing in the centre of a five-man defence, before moving into a midfield role in the second half.
Hougang coach Clement Teo, however, felt his skipper did not play at his best.
"I've known Zul since he was 16 and this boy has got tremendous talent," he said. "But there were phases of the game where he should have done better."
Despite seeing his team leapfrog Tampines Rovers into second place before the Stags play Balestier Khalsa today, Teo believes his charges still have much room for improvement.
He said: "Credit to the players, they have shown they are able to play and fight for each other.
"But it's only the sixth game and the team have got a lot of potential. We need to take it one game at a time. We can't think that now we're already (second), we're doing good enough."
Also, unbeaten league leaders Brunei DPMM beat Warriors 4-2 at home to make it five wins in six.