Ten-man Harimau Muda produced a determined display on Thursday to come from behind twice and force a 3-3 draw against Hougang United in the S.League.
It was the Cheetahs who got off to a dream start at the Hougang Stadium as they took the lead after nine minutes, when Nurhilmi Jasni climbed high to meet Shunsuke Nakatake’s corner and firmly nodded the ball past Ramdhan Hamid.
Eight minutes later, it was 2-0 when the hosts made the most of another set-piece situation; Kunihiro Yamashita meeting another excellent delivery by Nakatake and sending a powerful header into the back of the net.
Things got from bad to worse for Harimau Muda in the 22nd minute when they were reduced to ten men, after Ramdhan Hamid was shown a straight red for handling the ball outside the box.
But on the stroke of halftime, they were handed a lifeline when referee Nathan Chan awarded them a penalty after Faiz Salleh was penalised for handball inside the area, paving the way for Amirul Hisyam to fire home from 12 yards and pull one back for his side.
Still, Hougang continued to remain in control of proceedings and they reclaimed their two-goal cushion in the 69th minute with a brilliant team goal.
Receiving possession down the left, Manato Takahashi left his opponent for dead before crossing to Chupe, who unselfishly laid a first-time pass back to the edge of the area for Fairoz Hasan to blast past Ilham Amirullah.
Nonetheless, the visitors were awarded another spot-kick ten minutes later when a poor back-header by Lau Meng Meng forced Basil Chan to come off his line, and the goalkeeper was only able to hack down Syazwan Andik in a 50-50 challenge.
This time, it was Shahrul Igwan Samsudin who stepped up to the spot but he too showed no signs of nerves as he clinically found the bottom corner to reduce the deficit.
And four minutes from time, the remarkable comeback was completed when Amirul lined up a freekick down the right and curled a dangerous cross inside the area, where Adam Nor Azlin proceeded to tower above a sea of players and send an unstoppable header into the bottom corner to force the draw.
Despite failing to extend their winning streak, the result means Harimau Muda are now unbeaten in their last four matches and they are only behind fourth-placed Balestier Khalsa on goal difference.
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs’ woes continue as they remain winless after eight matches and are only above bottom side Courts Young Lions in the table, and already the pressure is mounting on coach Salim Moin.
Hougang United: Basil Chan, Lau Meng Meng, Kenneth Chang, Kunihiro Yamashita, Faiz Salleh, Renshi Yamaguchi, Shunsuke Nakatake, Nurhilmi Jasni, Muhaymin Salim (Fairoz Hasan 62’), Manato Takahasi, Chupe (Fareez Farhan 80’).
Harimau Muda: Ramdhan Hamid, Amirul Ikmal (Ilham Amirullah 24’), Annas Rahmat, Wan Ahmad Amirzafran, Nazirul Naim, D. Kenny Pallraj, Amirul Hisyam, Shahrul Igwam Samsudin (Syawal Nordin 90’), Adam Nor Azlin, Ridzuan Abdunloh (Syazwan Andik 71’), Syafwan Syahlan.