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"Pinball" Duo could be swapping spots after Balestier's comeback 4-1 thrashing of Hougang

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Following their second consecutive defeat that saw them succumbed to a 4-1 loss to Balestier Khalsa earlier at the Toa Payoh Stadium, things aren't looking that positive for Hougang United all out of sudden.

Ranked as the dark horses for the intense ongoing title race in recent weeks, this evening's defeat coupled with last weekend's narrow 2-1 loss to Courts Young Lions had seen the Cheetahs dropping points and could be in danger of losing their spot in the top six after tonight's result.

At the meantime, buoyed by their gutsy performance against league leaders Brunei DPMM last week on the same ground that resulted a 3-3 draw, the Tigers found themselves right at the doorsteps to join the top echelon of the league with only a handful of games remaining.

In short, the outcome of this "Pinball Derby" could alter the fate of either team on where they would head to when the league fixture enters its final "0.5" phrase.

The duck of the game was broken just before the interval when the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half time with a successful conversion from the spot by Diego Gama following an infringement in the penalty area spotted by referee Muhd Taqi Jahari.

Such a goal conceded at this juncture of the match didn't cause much psychological damage to the hosts, as they came back strongly in the second half to dominate the proceedings for the rest of the night with the equalizing goal scored in the fourth minute after the break.

Park Kang Jin levelled for Tigers (file)
Latched onto a cross from the right off Ruhaizad Ismail inside the eighteen yard, Korean playmaker Park Kang Jin textbooked into the back of the net with little time for Hougang's skipper Fadhil Salim to react.

Poh Yifeng was the next to leave his mark on the scoresheet when he finished from close range in the 63rd minute after the ball bounced off the head of Goran Ljubojevic that landed on his path to see Balestier vice-skipper took the lead for his side.

Croatian Ljubojevic capped the night by scoring a double in the 69th and 79th minute to seal all three points for Balestier who are now on 30 points after 21 matches played just three points behind Hougang on the table.

"In the first half, I thought we were slow and sloppy that we woke up in the second half by moving faster in the game," said the Tigers' coach Marko Kraljevic after the game."I told the boys at half time that while we need to win this game, but we need to relax too and I think it was a great performance in the second half that the team played and defended well."

Tigers' Poh Yifeng (17) took the lead (file)
Speaking on behalf of Cheetahs' coach Amin Nasir, who returned to the dugout after missed out their last match due to his medical treatment, team manager Nicholas Low opined it was a poor show by his team tonight.

Said Low:"I thought we could maintain the lead (after the first half) and we still had our chances in the game, but some players didn't play according to our plan, it was a very poor display and especially in the second half,

"So now, we just have to pick ourselves up and back to the basics which I hope we can sort them out by our next game."

Coincidentally, both Balestier and Hougang will be facing cellar-dweller Harimau Muda for their next league fixture in days to come.


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