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Tactical Review: Hougang United vs Tanjong Pagar United

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

By: Confaderal | 20 August 2023


High blood pressure test by a doctor in a clinic. General Practitioner. GP

Some of you are wondering why it's a picture of a patient taking a blood pressure test in a clinic.


Few days before —"The last home game of hougang's season" was the murmur within the hougang contingent as we got ready for our penultimate spl match: Hougang United vs Tanjong Pagar United. And so we expected a very high adrenaline, energetic match.


In the end, when the dust settled, the scoreline was to be a 3-3 stalemate. To be fair, our boys rightfully delivered. There were some lapses in defense and individual errors, but our boys really turned the screw in this match.


"The biggest difference though, is that Tanjong Pagar showed up with their attacking clinic, while we were left ruing our missed chances. Keyword: Clinical."

Stats for the match


Take a look at the stats from the match that transpired yesterday.


First half statistics. Hougang united vs Tanjong Pagar United.
The first half statistics. Image by AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp

The stats above showed a 1st half where Hougang United peppered the goal of the away side with 50% accuracy. It was a half where we dominated the proceedings.


Alas, once Tanjong Pagar had one good sniff of the goal, the ball went in. The ball slipped in Zaiful's near post through a header. Could Zaiful have done better for the first TPU goal? maybe. But all of this is easier said in hindsight.


The first half statistics. Image by AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp
The second half statistics. Image by AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp

The story repeated itself in the second half where we comfortably registered another three shots on target and ended up with no goals whilst Tanjong Pagar had another four shots on target and ended up with another two goals. This was a game where Hougang dominated but unfortunately didn't win. I'm sure the boys would've felt gutted.


So...what went wrong?


Besides not being clinical, Tanjong Pagar must've figured out that Hougang has a trend of conceding in the second half. It could have been tired legs or a change of instruction to sit deeper and wait for the counter. Who knows? but being clinical in front of goal is something that the coach has no control over. The coach can always come up with a plan to put you in a good position, but if you scuff it, then that's up to the player...and sometimes, luck. That was what's wrong.


"Outside foot, curve. Inside foot, curl. Chop the shot to make it bounce. Lob the shot. Round the keeper. Flick the header or head the ball into the ground". Some players go the extra mile with extra individual sessions just to practice finishing: to find the best way to get an advantage over a "finishing" situation. At the professional level, more often than not, smashing the ball might not be the best solution.


So one can only hope that the players take finishing drills as serious as it comes because when the game reaches breakneck speed, your muscle memory comes into play with the repeated drills. We fans can only spur you to the final moment, but when it's just the player and the keeper, that's where you are on your own. That moment is yours, own it.


Being patient and keeping the ball


Another point is us not being patient enough. In a game where the tide balances on a knife's edge, we struggled to be patient, drag the time and keep ball until there's a clear opportunity to break. Often, our whole team was not behind the ball. With only two minutes on injury time, disaster struck, Takayama failed to clear his lines and we were punished by a poached goal inside our box by Faizal Roslan.


The ebb and flow of football dictates that there are times in the 90 minutes where we need to contain the pressure, to negotiate with the situation, to admit that we are tired, that we are second best and to find the best way to contain a bad situation. I felt that we were a bit naive to concede that kind of goal towards the dying minutes. We were not patient and careful enough.


Despite that, I just have to say: kudos to the players for always wanting to be on the front foot and take charge. I, as a fan, have no effing regrets about how we played.


The individual errors


The last point is that individual lapses cost us the game. It was not because Tanjong Pagar had a good team goal(maybe, except for the first goal). What a waste. The good showing by Hougang was marred by the three goals conceded through individual errors. I'm sure the players would've felt gutted. We as fans don't want to remind them of the errors because our purpose is to uplift them, but individually, the players need to reflect, for themselves. I absolutely hate for our players to go to sleep tonight thinking about what could have been.


"The Tanjong Pagar players would think to themselves and glee upon how much of a gift the second and third goals were. I feel our hougang players deserve much better than that."

Khairul Amri cleverly lurking on Zulfahmi's blindspot to intercept Zul's pass.
Khairul Amri cleverly lurking on Zulfahmi's blindspot to intercept Zul's pass. Image credit: AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp

Takayama's clearance was blocked by Akmal.
Takayama's clearance was blocked by Akmal.Image credit: AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp

The positive?


Coach Marko has proven for more than a decade as Balestier's coach why route one football is the way to go. With Hougang, his "route one" football takes the shape of vicious counter-attacks, launching long balls forward. Counter-attacks are something hougang is known for too, seldom do we build up from the back. So anyways, my point is, route one football requires a targetman. It came in the form of Maksimovic.


For the benefit of the people, the difference between route one and counter-attacks is that 'route one' will attempt to play a long ball forward no matter the situation. A counter-attacking team will soak the pressure and strike when there's a transition. This is because the team on the defense has already committed most of it's men forward in attack.


Take a look at all three hougang goals: all three, Maksimovic had a hand in it, a penalty earned and two layoffs. What a targetman Maksimovic has been...and he has speed and workrate to boot.


Give the ball to Maksi and he will pivot the ball to you if you're in a good position. Maksi ran his socks off for this match and should be the POTM instead of Shahrin Saberin. But that's my opinion. Coach Marko has set up a plan to put his players in good positions against Tanjong Pagar: to counter attack them and on three occassions, which has resulted in goals. Sharp!


Closing statement


It was a game where we did everything well, but didn't come out of it with a win. Our players showed intensity and desire and I am proud of that. However, football is cruel sometimes. This draw felt like a lost. Hopefully, in our next game against Albirex, our boys will be wiser and careful. Sometimes you don't need to grab a game by the neck, but cleverly smother our opponents in their sleep. Be tricky, sneaky, clever. Satu Hati Satu Hougang. #1H1H


Nazrul Nazari celebrating a goal with a sommersault.
Image credit: AIA Singapore Premier League and/or Mediacorp

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