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SPL 2022: Sailors shake off ACL fatigue to defeat weakened Hougang in front of record crowd

Kim Shin Wook’s hat-trick guides Sailors to 4-3 win with late goals from Pedro Bortoluzo and Andre Moritz insufficient for injury-hit Hougang to mount comeback

Kim Shin-wook and Maxime Lestienne celebrate a Sailors goal at Hougang Stadium. PHOTO: AIA SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Singapore, 7 May 2022 - Spectator limits lifted, food and beverages allowed into stadiums, masks made optional in the stands – the spirit of the AIA Singapore Premier League returned with aplomb at the Hougang Stadium on Friday night (May 6).

The record crowd witnessed the Lion City Sailors dazzling display led by Maxime Lestienne and hat-trick hero Kim Shin Wook as they romped to a 4-3 away win over Hougang United, conceding two late goals in what was an otherwise dominant performance.

Playing their seventh match in 21 days, the Sailors opened the second of four rounds of SPL fixtures with a victory to go seven points clear – with an extra game played – of Tanjong Pagar United and Tampines Rovers.

Hougang were hand-tied by availability issues – under-23 defender Nazhiim Harman was out through suspension, Singapore international Zulfahmi Arifin was away on SEA Games duty, whilst the trio of first-choice goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin, Shawal Anuar and Idraki Adnan were ruled out with injuries.

For the Sailors, besides losing under-23 players Nur Adam and Saifullah Akbar to SEA Games duty, they had a fully-fit squad available. Tajeli Salamat was still absent from the matchday squad after breaking curfew during their ACL campaign in Buriram, but M. Anumanthan returned to the bench.

The away team began the game where they left off domestically when they thrashed Tanjong Pagar United 6-1 – with clockwork passing and laborious intensity chasing down every loose ball.

Song Uiyong (right) congratulates Kim Shin-wook after a goal, one of three for Kim against the Cheetahs in the match. PHOTO: AIA SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Just fifteen minutes in, midfielder Anaqi Ismit, awarded a rare start to fulfill the Sailors’ under-23 player requirement, sent a perfectly-timed lofted ball towards winger Maxime Lestienne. The Belgian comfortably slotted past Hougang goalkeeper Mukundan Maran who was caught in no man’s land to give the Sailors the advantage.

The Sailors doubled their advantage minutes later when nifty footwork from Song Ui-Young on the edge of the box found forward Kim Shin Wook, who swiveled from back-to-goal to fire a rocket into the top corner.

Hougang were handed a lifeline when Farhan Zulkifli’s cross was poorly dealt with by right-back Amirul Adli, whose headed clearance fell straight into Brazilian Andre Moritz’s path on the edge of the box. The playmaker made no mistake rolling the ball into the bottom corner, leaving goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud rooted to the spot.

Shahdan Sulaiman dictating the game in midfield for the Sailors at Hougang Stadium. PHOTO: AIA SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Right before the break, the Sailors restored their two-goal cushion when Lestienne’s point blank shot was smartly saved by Mukundan, but Kim Shin Wook was first to react to the rebound to head into an empty net.

Kim completed his hat-trick on the hour mark, slamming home Song’s cutback to solidify the Sailors’ lead. The reigning champions had further chances to extend their advantage when Song missed from near range and Diego Lopes curled a shot narrowly over the bar from the penalty shot.

The Cheetahs, buoyed by the home support, capitalized on the Sailors’ missed chances to pull a goal back in the 87th minute courtesy of Pedro Bortoluzo, before Moritz caught Izwan off his line with a mid-range lobbed shot with the last kick of the game.

Andre Moritz nets one of a brace of goals against the Sailors for a weakened Hougang United side. PHOTO: AIA SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Hougang head coach Clement Teo was quick to laud the effort from his players despite the defeat.

“I have got Faiz Salleh who hasn’t played this season but completed 90 minutes today. This game gave players opportunities to play. I can’t ask for more. Every player is pushing and trying which is really important for us especially against a quality team like Sailors,” he said.

When asked what his team could’ve improved on, coach Clement Teo said: “We could’ve kept the ball better and not rushed into things. The decision making could have been better. We were basically killed on the transitions in the first half.”

Sailors manager Kim Do-Hoon said: “It is a very difficult schedule, but my players did not give up until the final whistle. The score line doesn’t reflect the chances we created. We need to be more clinical in front of goal.”

On Kim Shin Wook’s hat-trick, he said: “He (Kim) played a big part in today’s win but it’s not about individuals. All the goals were team goals. He is taking care of himself well and coming back to full fitness, I’m sure he will score more goals.”

The Sailors face Geylang International next Saturday (May 14) at the Jalan Besar Stadium, keen to avenge their only defeat of the season. Hougang will play host to Tanjong Pagar United on the same day at 5.30pm.

AIA Singapore Premier League 2022

Other Game Week 8 Fixtures

Tanjong Pagar United vs Albirex Niigata Sat, 7 May 2022, Jurong East Stadium

Tampines Rovers vs Balestier Khalsa Sun, 8 May 2022, Our Tampines Hub


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