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Pre-match Warmups: Hougang United vs PSM Makassar @JBS

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Submitted by: Vesuvius | 6th November 2023

Awaydays logo for the travelling football fan

Some of you might be wondering what's this picture of a cheetah with the tail hanging limply between it's legs — that, unfortunately, is us at the moment.

For context, a few days ago, our boys travelled to Bali's Kapten Wayan Dipta stadium... and boy, did we get smacked.

No, I didn't say we got smacked because we lost, but rather, it's in the way we lost the match: with PSM getting a staggering 12 shots in the first half alone. Hougang only had one shot in that same time.

And to add on, we lost most of the 50/50 duels too. How can we get so much possession yet let in so many shots?

"PSM getting a staggering 12 shots in the first half alone. Hougang only had one shot..."

Interestingly, we conceded goals not from open play, but from two setpieces and one counter-attack. Yuran Fernandes, the towering defender was the instigator for both setpieces.

Truth be told, it was a rather sloppy display. In defence, we got turned so many times. In attack, we were slow to shoot the ball from goalscoring positions, oftentimes preferring to delay the shot or wait for the ball to bounce just right. Most times, we just end up passing backwards.

The boys also preferred to trap the ball first before making a pass. That the first touch put the balls miles away doesn't help the issue.

Caption: Hougang with the bulk of possession. 📸 Forza Football.

Sometimes one can't help but to feel sorry for our boys. Fan criticism is always present. But when we ourselves work, there's also a fair bit of criticism we face, from the bosses, the client and for me, the public too. It's important to understand that criticism comes in every job, especially in Singapore.

It's a good thing. Because only when there's (constructive) criticism, can there be perfection.

How we react defines us as Singaporeans.

And our boys will have the chance to react in this return leg at Jalan Besar Stadium. This time it will be with the full strength of the fans by the side roaring them on. This is our home, let's show them boys! Here are the five things we should be wary of in the return leg versus PSM Makassar.

Hougang United vs PSM Makassar. Round two. Let's do this! 🥊

1. Setpiece maestro: Yuran Fernandes

Bali. 25th October 2023. On a cold and windy night, Yuran Fernandes came out on top against our defence on not one, but two set pieces. The towering defender has all 1.98m frame of his to create the goals on that fateful day.

For the first goal, Dzaky swings in a setpiece cross from the right, about eye level, curling away from the goal. Yuran leans away from goal using his incredible reach and flicks a looping header pass Zaiful Nizam. The defender closest to him, Kazuma, couldn't even get close to the ball.

For the second goal, a setpiece cross finds Everton on the "D", who had the presence of mind to head it to Yuran on the side. Yuran still had some work to do as Anders closed him down. But just like playing against younger kids on the playground, Yuran chested the ball and in one swift move swiveled and shot at the far right corner of goal. He did this all while shielding against Anders.

Caption: PSM's bigger size advantage prevents Anders from successfully intercepting.📸 AFC hub youtube page.

Yuran needs to be stopped. This is the second time, a towering player has scored against us from a setpiece: Gabriel Peres from Sabah being the other one.

Since we don't have anyone with height, it would seem PSM will try to pack height during set pieces with Yuran, Adilson and Everton leading the charge. Also, PSM tried their luck and popped a few long range shots when Zaiful was out of his line. Looks like Zaiful's lack of height was something they're trying to exploit. When Zaiful comes off his line, they can loop the ball over the top.

Because of this danger, Zaiful had to stay on his line therefore leaving space in behind for PSM's strikers to run into. It also didn't help that we played a high defensive line.

2. PSM's 5-3-2

Knowing Hougang will be playing side-to-side on the wings, PSM aimed to cut out the supply of crosses from the flanks. It was so effective that in the first half, we only managed one shot. That one shot came from Nazrul from outside the box.

We also had to rely on route-one long balls over the top so that we could attack. Unfortunately, the ball didn't land kindly to our boys. The silver lining was that we created many opportunities this way in the first half, but sadly, the ball was either swept up by the keeper, or the ball didn't bounce right for our lads.

PSM had to thank their defensive shape for this as they set up in a 5-3-2. This made it difficult to cut through their flanks as time and time again our wingplay was disrupted by three PSM players closing down our guys.

And then we tried to go through the middle. But our midfield trio were usually late to arrive for counterattacks in the middle. Our midfield trio's passing also wasn't progressive and fast enough. We got closed down constantly by their midfield three. Conversely, when the opportunity arose, PSM distributed the ball out of midfield fast and progressively. One of them led to a counterattack from which Adilson scored.

Perhaps with Gabriel and Kiki returning, we might see a more varied attacking strategy as both of these players can cut in to shoot from their respective flanks. And with these two not shy of taking a shot from range, it will open up the play more as PSM's players will know not to bunch up together in the middle.

That being said, PSM had a gameplan and executed it perfectly. Our boys and the coach had no response to that.

The silver lining though was that PSM was dealt another blow last week as they went down 3-2 against Persija Jakarta in Liga 1 at home. Despite their low-block 5-3-2, Persija managed to breach them thrice during open play. Goal number one was a wall pass through PSM's defence that put Witan through on-goal. The second goal was some quick exchange of passes which led to a cross that was converted by Matsumara, and the third goal was an over-the-top ball which was pushed into space before the ball bounced and rounded around the keeper by Witan.

Should our boys play with a higher tempo and a packed midfield, we should be able to replicate what Persija has done here.

3. The Slenderman(s)

The lanky Adilson da Silva strode around the pitch effortlessly: with one stride, he could cover 2 metres. Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration.

Caption: PSM's Adilson gets past Kazuma in two strides.📸 AFC hub youtube page.

But against the likes of Naoki or Kazuma who had shorter legs than him, Adilson just had to feign a shot on one side and move the ball to the other side and he would already be in a position to release a shot. Against the 1.98m Yuran Fernandes, Anders was body blocked by the former who chested the ball, brought it down and shot for the second goal. Anders looked like a cat scratching a tall tree.

Even against the 1.86m Everton, we had issues dealing with his knock-downs from the setpieces.

This Thursday, PSM will once again be looking at exploiting the height advantage again. They will also take their time and wait for opportunities. Hougang will have to be ready.

We will need to stop these three players from getting the ball for us to counter their threat. Our midfield will need to be more mobile across the park for this to happen.

4. A coach walking the tightrope

There was a moment in the first half where Irwan Shah was tackled near the touchline. Wan Shah fell to the floor and the momentum brought him past the touchline and his toe poked the PSM coach, Bernardo Tavares. True to Tavares's thespian form, the coach held his foot and jumped around in "agony". Moments later, the coach was heard shouting for an ice pack which he applied to his "injury".

A coach under fire from management always brings out the worst in a human being. For Bernardo Tavares nothing is beneath him, especially when he sets out to get a player carded for a trivial thing. And when a coach has that kind of values, it will surely transfer onto the players.

Caption: We found Bernardo Tavares's doppelganger. Same attitude and looks.📸 Illumination & Universal Pictures.

Against Tampines last year we saw Tavares also scream, shout and gesture at the referee when Chris Van Huizen tackled a Makassar player. Tavares applauded the referee once a red card was brandished. Just like Gru from Minions, despicable!

Our players will need to be wary against a team that would try get an advantage any way they can. We need to stay calm and not get carded.

They always say: "All's fair in love and war". And rightly so, especially in the sport we all love: football. As long as we respect the opponent after the game has ended, then everything's cool. With that being said, we should also not be shy to resort to getting our opponents carded or to not stop play for a fallen opponent to get an advantage. Bernardo Tavares knows this. PSM's players know this. And we'll lose out if we don't also take advantage of the mind games on the field.

Just as long as we remember not to get ourselves heated up and it's all part of the job, then we should be fine. I'm looking forward to seeing our boys outsmart the PSM fellas in the return leg.

5. Everton Nascimento

Everton turned our defenders so many times, Boris Kopitovic would be proud. Set pieces usually are aimed at him so he can head it down to another person.

The attacking midfielder/forward ran Hougang ragged in the away leg by being the link up player. He had a hand in two of the goals and seriously could've had much more assists. He was also the player that the set pieces were aimed at.

If we are to get joy out of this game then we need to dilute his influence in the game. One way we can do this is to employ more bodies in the midfield or just have a person marking him.

Of course, it's always easier said than done. Let's hope the boys have the right response against the threat of Everton.

Concluding statement

This match represents the midpoint of our AFC cup campaign. The mountain might be too far to climb but I hope the boys give their all simply because this competition is what professionals dream of playing in. Let's try to aim for a second spot finish in this group then we can let fate decide if we can go through to the next round.

The fact that we have the bulk of the possession but failed to create anything meaningful speaks of the bluntness of our attack going forward. There's just to many sidewards or backwards passing. Meanwhile PSM were incisive and threatening moving forward. Let's hope there's more creativity and incisiveness as we chase the game for the return leg.

Caption: On another website. Shows Hougang with the bulk of possession.📸 Sofascore

Caption: Again, on another website. Shows Hougang with the bulk of possession.📸

PSM will be looking to be patient against us and repeat the patterns outlined in this article earlier. With the sudden news of Zulfahmi being transferred to Indonesia's Liga 1, it's going to be an even harder task. We wish our captain Zul all the best! We've been in this situation before...and we overcame it. Let's hope our boys take this as a challenge and plug the gaps this time.

Caption: All the best to Zulfahmi who has earned a transfer to Liga 1.📸 hools instagram

Do leave your well wishes to Zulfahmi in the comments below. As always, we the fans will always be with you throughout! Let's have another magical night, shall we? #Hougangsampaimati


PSM vs Hougang Quick Report:

- 5-3-2 formation used

- Dangermen: Dzaky Asraf, Yance Sayuri, Yakob Sayuri, Kenzo Nambu, Everton, Adilson da silva, Yuran Fernandes

-Unfortunately for PSM, new signing, Victor Mansaray from Ho Chi Minh cannot be included in the squad according to AFC rules.

- PSM will not be used to playing on the artifical surface. This could be advantageous.

- Gabriel and Kiki should be returning to fitness for this match.

- Zulfahmi will be going to Liga 1 club, Bhayangkara.

- In our recent defeat against PSM, We've conceded twice from a set piece and once from a counter attack.

- We need to be aware that the offside rule does not apply for throw-ins. PSM will want to get in-behind on these situations.

- PSM. A raised hand for corner means cross to the centre. No raised hands mean near post corner.

— Tune in to the "Upcoming" section of our homepage after the matchday to see the latest scores. Or simply follow our 'hougang_hools' instagram page or 'Hougang United FC Supporters Club' on facebook to see video snippets or updates on latest scores. All images used are stocks or from the hougang united instagram page unless otherwise stated.

Can Hougang unleash the vengeance?

  • 0%Yes!

  • 0%No. PSM will defeat Hougang again👎🏻

Who do you think will score?

  • 0%Kracjek

  • 0%Maksimovic

  • 0%Shahdan

  • 0%Sahil

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