Hougang United on cusp of Singapore Cup semi after QF first-leg win
Hougang United took a big step to qualifying for the last four of the Singapore Cup after a 4-1 mauling of Cambodia's Nagaworld FC in their quarterfinal first-leg tie at Hougang Stadium on Friday night.
Japanese midfielder Fumiya Kogure starred by scoring two and contributing an assist for Pablo Rodriguez's goal, while Fairoz Hasan added a fourth for Hougang.
It marked the first time that they have scored four goals under coach Philippe Aw -- the last time they did so was in a 4-2 S.League victory over Aw's previous club Home United a year ago.
But Atuheire Kipson's penalty gives Nagaworld a glimmer of hope going into Monday's second leg at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Nagaworld were largely under the cosh in the first 45 minutes, except an early Sos Suhana shot that was pushed away by Hougang custodian Khairulhin Khalid.
Hougang created a couple of promising openings before breaking the deadlock on 16 minutes.
Nazrul Nazari collected Fabian Kwok's reverse pass before cutting back from the right byline for Kogure to flick home from close range.
That was the 28-year-old's first goal since May 11. And he would add another to double the Cheetahs' lead five minutes before half-time.
Darting into the attacking third unchallenged, Kogure needed no second invitation to lash unerringly into the bottom left corner from 20 yards out.
Nagaworld did grab a lifeline nine minutes into the second half.
After Soung Virak was brought down by Ali Hudzaifi in the box, Kipson stepped up and sent Khairulhin the wrong way from 12 yards out.
The scorer then spurned an excellent opportunity to equalise on 62 minutes as he failed to get a clean touch on George Kelechi's cut-back in front of goal.
He would live to rue that miss as Hougang restored their two-goal advantage nine minutes later.
Nagaworld goalkeeper Samreth Seiha got a strong hand to Kogure's free kick, but the rebound fell to Rodriguez who reacted the quickest to tap in from eight yards out.
Nagaworld were deflated by then, and let in another five minutes before the end.
Striding onto a Faiz Salleh defence-splitting pass from the left, Fairoz steadied himself inside the six-yard box before firing past the onrushing Seiha to make it 4-1 to the home side.
Hougang are now favourites to meet Philippines invitees Global-Cebu in the semis. Akbar Nawas' side progressed 4-3 on aggregate, despite a 2-1 defeat to Cambodian side Boeung Ket FC in the other game on Friday night.
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Wahyudi Wahid, Atsushi Shirota, Delwinder Singh, Ali Hudzaifi (Faiz Salleh 82'), Fabian Kwok (Afiq Noor 89'), Syahiran Miswan, Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 86'), Pablo Rodriguez, Fumiya Kogure (C)
Nagaworld: Samreth Seiha (GK), Nhim Sovannara, Sary Matnorotin (Leng Makara 71'), Kouch Sokumpheak (C), Soung Virak (Prak Chanratana 71'), Sos Suhana (Thom Darapich 81'), Atuheire Kipson, Kento Fujihara, Ngoy Srin, George Kelechi, Kouch Dani
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT