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Prematch Warmups: Hougang United vs Balestier Khalsa - SG cup 2023

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Submitted by: Tesla | 19th October 2023

A tiger is on the prowl just like Balestier Khalsa

Not too long ago, Balestier looked upon Lion City Sailors with those puppy dog eyes as they got soundly beaten by an LCS team baying for blood after their defeat to Bangkok United. The tigers will be hurting... and will be on the prowl...and they will have one month to stalk their prey.

Much has happened since then — LCS went on to win their next match against Kitchee, and Hougang has gone on to break their no-win streak against the "stronger" V.league side, Haiphong. Kudos to the lads for a spirited comeback! Catch the full match here!

Here, we take a look at the upcoming Hougang United vs Balestier Khalsa match on the 21st of October 2023.

The Balestier lineup that works - 2023 edition

Balestier has been having a good season by their usual standards. Their 125-year club logo is a testament to their renewed vigor. With that, comes a brand new heavy-attacking side. They either attack....or attack. There's no in-between. This mentality has earned them fourth placing in the league with no draws. Incredible!

The good news is that Alen Kozar doesn't look like he'll be returning soon. In his place we are expecting Madhu or Emmeric to partner Jordan Emaviwe in the heart of defence. The absence of Kozar will also mean that Wai Loon will sit deeper as a screening midfielder. And since they're missing the industry of Wai Loon in midfield, Sugita will have to fill that void. This leaves an empty slot on the left wing which will be given to Ignatius Ang.

Edited: looks like Alen Kozar appeared in a friendly against Albirex with a wrapped knee during the int'l break(14oct). Only time will tell if he's ready for this match.

Thus, knowing that the Balestier lineup doesn't change much this season, we expect more of the same lineup, the one with no Kozar in it.

The threat of Jumbo

The chief antagonizer of Hougang will be Shuhei Hoshino a.k.a. Jumbo. It's time to take a stand and say no. Jumbo, unlike alot of other SPL number 9s will tend to drop much deeper to receive the ball. Most times allowing Daniel, Ignatius and Ryoya to go ahead of him.

Zulfahmi and Irwan or Shahdan must be on hand to aggressively shut him down before he pivots the ball forward to his team mates.

"Jumbo, unlike alot of other SPL number 9s will tend to drop much deeper to receive the ball."

The threat of Daniel

Another player who we will need to pay attention to is Daniel Goh, the Singapore international. Touted as the next best in the RW position, Daniel can only be bested by Shawal Anuar. Both boasts plenty of pace and dribbling prowess with Shawal only barely beating Daniel with the former's feather-like first touch at speed. The kind that reminds you of Dennis Bergkamp.

Lately, Daniel has been occupied with lots of defensive duties to plug the holes in the Balestier defense but forward-wise, the boy looks bright. He has scored 8 goals in the SPL this season. He will look to make runs near the touchline when Jumbo or Ryoya gets the ball, much like how Shawal did for us in 2022.

"...dealing with Daniel always leaves you with two hard choices - take him out before the penalty area and concede a freekick, or take him out in the penalty area and risk conceding a penalty. "

It will be up to Jordan Vestering or Nazrul to outrun and outmuscle Daniel of the ball. Our guys will also need to do well as Daniel will take every opportunity to go down in the penalty box. Hence, dealing with Daniel always leaves you with two hard choices - take him out before the penalty area and concede a freekick, or take him out in the penalty area and risk conceding a penalty.

The adventures of Ho Wai Loon and Sugita

You'll know the tigers have their tails up when Wai Loon and Sugita venture forward to join the attack. Usually, Wai Loon and Kozar will occasionally create industry in the middle. But with Kozar (hopefully) out, Sugita takes Wai Loon's place and Wai Loon in turn takes Kozar's place. This, together with their defensive line becomes their rest defense.

Sugita hasn't look at his best playing centrally though but never underestimate his work rate. If hougang keep both of these guys playing in defense and not outside of it, then we'll have better control of the match proceedings. Keep them pinned!

Or make sure when they venture out, we spring a counter on them (especially knowing Zul and Shahdan can spray passes forward).

The absentees for Hougang United

In what was an epic win for Hougang...and Singapore football in the AFC cup against Haiphong, two absentees were noticeably missed — Kristijan Kracjek and Gabriel Quak. Instead of having a blunt attacking threat, our boys demonstrated the resolve of a Singaporean aunty queuing up to redeem healthy 365 prizes. New attacking impetus was spread out between Djordje Maksimovic, Nazrul, Anders, Hazzuwan, Amy and Amir.

After some incessant pressure from the team, in the 83rd minute, a stray ball was intercepted by Nazrul and layed onto the path of an onrushing Maksimovic. The Serbian then slotted the ball coolly into the bottom corner.

The cheetahs have their tails up.

A few more chances went hougang's way later on as Amy struck the bar from close range. But the moment of inspiration came later on as a string of passes: first from Kuriyama made it's way to Amir who had the presence of mind to pick out Anders on the flanks. Anders then sent in one of the best low-cross to the middle of the box, where just moments ago, Maksi and a defender was running in the same direction. Maksi, paused his run, tugged the hand of the defender on one side, vanished into thin air and materialised on the opposite side to tap in the winner.

The home crowd collapsed into a heap of euphoria.

The moral of the story is — no Kiki, no Gabriel, no problem. Fortune favours the brave.

This, coupled with our pattern of winning in bursts of four games at a time, put us, hopefully in good momentum to take the points against Balestier. That being said, sources close to the club mentioned that one of them will be fit to play for this match 😉

The shape of water

Balestier will aim to keep their shape, the shape of water. Fluid in attack — leaky in defence. Depends on which side they're playing it could be the former or the latter. Against a technically stronger or posession-based side is where Balestier showed their naivete as defending for long spells of the match is not their strong point. Where they excel is against a team that turns possession away cheaply. If they can't have the ball, they can't attack.

In our last game against them we did just that. Suffocating their attack by constantly attacking them in a decisive encounter in their home ground. If we are to beat them, Hougang needs to display that kind of attacking verve again. Play the ball on the ground and dominate them, just like how Tampines, LCS, Albirex have beaten them.

Our cheetahs have a balanced squad on paper. As long as our boys show Balestier the respect and believe that Balestier can always punish them, our boys will play with ruthless efficiency. We can do this! #1H1H


Balestier Khalsa Quick Report:

- 4-3-3 formation preferred

- Dangermen: Jumbo, Ryoya, Daniel

- Alen Kozar could play some minutes here as he might be rushed back from injury.

- Kiki Kracjek or Gabriel should be back from injury but we're not holding our breath. Figure out which one.

— Unless otherwise stated, our photos are from Hougang United or from stocks. Tune in to post-match results in our "Upcoming" section of the website after the matchday.

Will you be coming to watch the match?

  • 0%Yes! Yahooo!

  • 0%No. I can't make it

Who do you think will be hougang's man of the match?

  • 0%Kristijan Kracjek

  • 0%Zulfahmi

  • 0%Djordje Maksimovic

  • 0%Shahdan

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