SAFFC 3 (Shimpei Sakurada 5’, Fazrul Nawaz 44’, Aliff Shafaein 66’)
Having dumped them out of the Singapore Cup in the quarter-finals on Monday, SAFFC got the better of Home United for a second time this season with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Goals from Shimpei Sakurada, Fazrul Nawaz and Aliff Shafaein saw the Warriors to triumph, while their opponents also saw Franklin Anzite dismissed in the 78th minute for a headbutt on Shahril Jantan.
Looking to avenge their Cup elimination, Home pressed their opponents hard from the first whistle but were caught cold just five minutes into the game.
There did not seem to be any danger when Sakurada picked the ball up 35 yards away from goal, but the Japanese midfielder had other ideas.
He took a touch before unleashing an absolute rocket which sailed over Nazri Sabri in the Home goal and into the top corner to give SAFFC the lead.
The Protectors tried to hit back and skipper Shi Jia Yi should have done better than to head over a John Wilkinson cross from six-yards out.
Anzite was next to waste a great chance, as he headed a superb freekick delivery from Wilkinson into the ground and over the bar on the half-hour mark.
Mislav Karoglan went close to adding a second with a shot that flew just past the top corner from the edge of the area.
The second goal did come a minute before half-time, courtesy of an error from Anzite.
The Central African Republic international failed to deal with a seemingly harmless through ball, allowing Fazrul to sneak in and coolly slot the ball into the far corner to extend the lead.
Home coach Lee Lim Saeng brought on Jeremy Chiang for Song Ui Young at the start of the second half in a tactical reshuffle in a bid to salvage the game, in the process moving Anzite from defence to partner Mendy upfront.
The Protectors threw caution to the wind as they went for broke but on most occasions, they were frustrated by a resolute SAFFC backline.
Their hopes were dealt a further blow on the hour mark, as Jia Yi was forced off with an injury, but Home did not let up with their offensive pressure.
But as they pushed men up, the Protectors left gaps at the back and they were punished in the 66th minute as Aliff Shafaein grabbed a third goal on the counter-attack.
The winger took a pass in his stride as he surged into the box before hitting a sweet finish into the far corner to score his first goal in SAFFC colors and make it 3-0.
Anzite capped a miserable night for himself when a moment of madness saw him dismissed in the 78th minute for a clear headbutt on Shahril.
That ended any hopes of a Home fightback and the Warriors could even afford to bring on 37 year-old former Singapore international goalkeeper Rezal Hassan for the last five minutes of the game, as they saw out the game for a comfortable victory.
‘We still have a chance’
Holding up both hands in defeat, a disappointed Baek Jong Seok admitted that his side went down to a superior opponent.
The Home assistant coach explained: “To be honest, I haven’t got much to say about the game. We had a difficult case, missing four players (Qiu Li, Lionel, Nor Azli, Sofiyan) and I don’t want to make excuses, but we had the problem of not having enough players.
“I believe my team did their best, but they (SAFFC) were better, today was not the day for us… We just lost our tempo and concentration and we didn’t stay focused. Their movement and passing is very organized and…they worked harder than us, they deserved to win.”
SAFFC assistant V. Selvaraj, meanwhile, was pleased that his tactic of attacking Home down the flanks paid off, saying that his players gave him confidence with the way they worked in training.
“We came here with a plan; I was just afraid that we did not have enough time to work on it, but everything went well and I can confidently say that the boys tried very hard and even in training we were very positive and everything came out fine for us.
“I was very confident when I saw them in training; a coach can feel how prepared the players are, and honestly they were very hungry and showed a lot of passion. Home were tiring but we kept going and confidence played a very big part. We were on top mainly because we wanted it more.”
The ex-Singapore international also issued a warning to the rest of the teams in the league that the Warriors were not about to give up on the title just yet.
“We are six points behind the leaders and as I have told you guys earlier, I still believe we can make it in the league. We still stand a chance; we will build on from here, work on our weakness and we will train hard.”
Home: Nazri Sabri, Rosman Sulaiman, Kenji Arai, Franklin Anzite, Masrezwan Masturi, Shi Jia Yi (C) (Rhysh Roshan Rai 60’), John Wilkinson, Song Ui Young (Jeremy Chiang 45’), Indra Sahdan, Firdaus Idros, Frederic Mendy.
Unused subs: Lionel Lewis, Nur Azreen Azman, Kairuldin Ishak, Qiu Li.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan (Rezal Hassan 89’), Razaleigh Khalik, Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Aliff Shafaein (Ruzaini Zainal 75’), Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Mislav Karoglan, Fazrul Nawaz.
Unused subs: Noh Rahman, Eddie Chang, Hafsyar Farkhan, Prakash S/O Manikam, Erwan Gunawan.
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