Home 1 Shi Jia Yi 45’
SAFFC 2 Tatsuro Inui 38’, Rosman Sulaiman O.G 50’
(SAFFC lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Defending champions Home United fell to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Singapore Cup tie against SAFFC at Bishan Stadium, leaving them with the difficult task of turning things around at the Warriors Arena next week.
The ‘Uniform Derby’ was settled by Rosman Sulaiman’s unfortunate own goal in the second half, which ensured that the Warriors will take a one-goal advantage into the second leg.
The game opened with a scrappy first thirty minutes, during which both sides committed a series of niggling fouls that disrupted the other’s momentum and left both goalkeepers with very little to do.
Mislav Karoglan briefly raised the spectators’ heartbeats when he turned and fired a snapshot from the edge of the area on the half-hour, but the attempt drifted wide.
The opening goal, when it came, was a thing of beauty though.
From just outside the area on the right, Tatsuro Inui fired a stunning 25-yard freekick into the far corner of the net to give his side the lead.
SAFFC goalkeeper Shahril Jantan preserved his team’s lead with a smart save to tip over Frederic Mendy’s header, before Shi Jia Yi’s volley from the subsequent corner was disallowed for a foul by Mendy in the build-up.
The Home skipper did get his goal moments later, as Home equalised just before half-time.
Abysmal marking by the Warriors left him totally unmarked as he stooped low to divert Qiu Li’s corner past a helpless Shahril in the last piece of action of the half.
The away side regained the lead just five minutes into the second half, when Rosman Sulaiman sliced his clearance and could only watch on in horror as the ball looped back over Nazri Sabri into the Home goal.
Qiu Li came close to equalising with a deflected shot from distance that whizzed just past the post, before firing wide from just outside the box after Shotaro Ihata laid the ball back for him at a corner.
The Warriors exploited the gaps left behind by the Protectors with their counter-attacking play, as the pace of Fazrul Nawaz and Inui proved to be a headache down the flanks.
Karoglan forced a good save from Nazri with his header at a corner, as SAFFC started to find more space with Home throwing more men upfront in a bid to find an equaliser.
The Home goalkeeper then denied Ruzaini Zainal, before Anzite headed just over from a Mendy cross.
The referee also waved away penalty appeals when Jia Yi was nudged over in the box for Home, while SAFFC were denied what looked like a stonewall spot-kick when Kenji Arai brought down Shimpei Sakurada at the other end.
A combination of Shahril and Vidosevic then conspired to deny Mendy from close range after a loose ball had fallen to the striker in the box, and that proved enough for SAFFC to come away with a narrow victory.
Important second leg
At the post-match press conference, the assistant coaches of both sides agreed that the second leg next week would be important in deciding which team progressed.
“Losing a game is always disappointing, but we have got another match (next week), so we have another chance to beat them”, said Home’s Baek Jong Seok, who also added that he wasn’t sure whether regular number one Lionel Lewis would be fit to play in the game.
“We still have time to prepare and come back… I don’t think it was a bad performance; I am sure we can beat them next week.”
SAFFC’s V. Selvaraj stressed the importance of not losing concentration, saying that he rallied his side on at half-time after conceding the equaliser in the dying seconds of the first half.
“This is just a win and it doesn’t mean anything for me, because we have to prepare for the second leg, which is what matters”, he declared.
“It is important to keep our shape. I told my boys to defend first as a team, because everyone has to do their part.”
He also gave credit to head coach Richard Bok, who is currently away on a coaching course, pointing out that Bok was the one who pushed him in training and that the gameplan was initiated by him.
Predicting a tough return leg at Choa Chu Kang, he warned that the tie was definitely not over.
“It is definitely going to be a very tense second leg. Against a quality side like Home, it (the tie) is never settled. Things will heat up even more.”
The second leg will be played at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium next Monday, 9th July at 7.45 p.m.
Home: Nazri Sabri, Nor Azli Yusoff, Rosman Sulaiman (Jeremy Chiang 50’), Kenji Arai, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Franklin Anzite, Shi Jia Yi (C) (Shotaro Ihata 54’), John Wilkinson, Indra Sahdan (Firdaus Idros 45’), Qiu Li, Frederic Mendy. Unused subs: Nurazreen Azman, Kairuldin Ishak, Rhysh Roshan Rai, Hanafi Ghazali.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Noh Rahman, Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Aliff Shafaein (Ruzaini Zainal 70’), Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Mislav Karoglan, Fazrul Nawaz. Unused subs: Rezal Hassan, Razaleigh Khalik, Bah Mamadou, Hafsyar Farkhan, Prakash S/O Manikam, Erwan Gunawan.
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