Home United edged ahead in the sweepstakes for the second spot in the Singapore Premier League after coming from behind twice to earn a thrilling 4-3 victory over Warriors FC at the Bishan Stadium on Sunday evening.
Home had taken the lead early on, but Warriors came back and took the lead twice at 2-1 and 3-2, before Home turned it around in their favour late on. Song Ui-young netted a hat-trick for the Protectors, with Faritz Hameed notching the other goal as well as an assist for the Protectors to render Khairul Nizam’s brace and an Ignatius Ang effort pointless.
The victory meant that the Protectors have leapfrogged Tampines Rovers, who suffered a defeat to Brunei DPMM on Saturday, into the second spot. All Home need to do to secure the runners’ up spot is to avoid a defeat against Tampines next Saturday.
Home had broken the deadlock just 10 minutes into the game through the Song’s first goal. The credit had to go to Faritz, after the Protectors full-back played a delightful cross into the box, leaving the South Korean, who had peeled away from Hafiz Sulaiman, with a free header at goal.
The lead lasted just seven minutes though, with Nizam dispatching a penalty with confidence to equalise with his first goal of the season. The forward, starting upfront in place of Jonathan Behe, had earned the penalty as he was felled by Abdil Qaiyyim while trying to reach a square ball from Emmeric Ong.
The game continued to be played at a high tempo, but neither side were able to carve out any shooting chances until Hafiz Nor dragged a shot from the edge of the area wide in the 29th minute.
Warriors were denied a second goal two minutes later, with Kenji Rusydi pulling off a top-notch save to prevent Sahil’s wicked free-kick from finding the top corner.
From the resulting corner, Aqhari Abdullah headed off the line to stop Tajeli Salamat’s delivery from creeping in at the near post, before Abdil deflected a Sahil Suhaimi shot wide.
This time round, Tajeli floated a superb ball into the area for Nizam, who beat both Iqram Rifqi and Kenji to nod into an open goal for the lead.
Nizam could have had a third goal right before half-time after Ong and Ang combined to set him up. The Singapore international, left unmarked in the box once again, fired straight at Kenji though.
Warriors started the second half the same way they ended the first and had another chance just two minutes in after Sahil robbed Aqhari of the ball right outside the box. The wide attacker screwed his shot wide, however.
It was Home who would score next though, after a mistake from Hafiz Sulaiman gave Shahril Ishak the ball on the right. The veteran turned his marker and smartly picked out an unmarked Song at the far post, and the latter had the easy task of smashing the ball into the back of the net.
The Protectors then had a golden chance to regain the lead in the 52nd minute, after Iqram beat the offside trap to latch onto another superb pass from Faritz. The forward’s touch was a heavy one though, and Warriors goalkeeper Mukundan Maran was able to claim the ball to bail his team out.
Home kept up the pressure on the Warriors defence, with Fazli Ayob, who had replaced Iqram, getting three shots away in quick succession, but all three times it was blocked by a sea of blue.
Warriors then surged ahead once more in the 71st minute through Ang, after he somehow managed to retain control of the ball having fell to the ground just as he received Ammirul Emmran’s cross. He then finessed a shot into the bottom corner, with Kenji allowing it to slip through his grasps.
But two minutes later, Home pegged Warriors back. A corner from Fazli was met by Faritz at the back post for yet another free header at goal.
The Protectors took the lead again for the second time in the match in the 81st minute, with Song completing his hat-trick from the spot. Shahril had earned the penalty, after Ong bundled him over as they were jostling for space to reach Izzdin’s cross.
Nizam then forced Kenji into action once again with a towering header as Warriors went on the attack almost immediately. But as Warriors poured numbers forward, the gaps they left behind then allowed Shahril a great chance to put the game away, but he put it wide.
A blotched counter from Home late on in injury time then gave Warriors a chance to attack. A floated ball into the area was knocked down but Nizam, and a goalmouth scrambled ensued before Abdil somehow cleared it out with Kenji caught out.
Warriors then threw on almost everyone for the corner, including goalkeeper Mukundan, but Shamil Sharif put the corner out before it even reached the danger area, allowing Home to claim three vital points.
Aidil Sharin: “Today the boys, after the first goal we were a bit relaxed and thought we can win this game easily. It’s normal if you see that their best player wasn’t playing. This is where we need to focus because Warriors still had 11 good players on the pitch. After they equalised, and we were down at half-time, I made changes. The game plan was followed by the players and I am happy for them. We worked very hard in training and it paid off in the second half.
“For Tampines, it’s very crucial but we can’t think of them because next game we are playing Albirex in the Singapore Cup semi-final so we have to focus on that first. After that game, then we’ll prepare for Tampines.
“I believe in my boys despite allowing Warriors to go 3-2 up – we’ve played in so many games. I can understand the boys something that the tempo was up and down, humid weather – it’s so hot at 5.30pm. But I still believed once we got Faritz’s goal that the game would go for us.
“Honestly, it’s not easy for Song because of injuroes. I can understand the selection he was out for a few months but now he’s coming back to his best, but we know that he can deliver more. With his fitness, he’s still not 100 per cent. I’m happy for him to get a hat-trick. Most importantly it’s not only for him but for the team.”
Warriors head coach Mirko Grabovac: Five crosses, four goals. This is not the first game it has happened. You can see something special upfront from Nizam, Sahil and Iggy. We had few chances, very important for Nizam to get confidence to do something, but he couldn’t get the third goal.
“Against Brunei, we allowed them to come back. It was the same thing today… very easily we allowed them to score. Problem is that we do lots of things in training to defend set-pieces. We told them to concentrate, but most games it’s the same. Discipline in defence, defending in set-pieces, it’s why we allowed them to score more goals. They didn’t offer much else as far as I recall.
“After the game against Brunei, I cannot be angry because Brunei played well. Today we lost because we made a lot of mistakes. In football you can’t do that. It was too easy. But I’m actually happy with how the team played today (in attack). Midfielders, they worked very hard. Defence, first half it was very good. We haven’t played like that in a long time in that first half. If this team has a good pre-season next year, we will have a good season.
“For Behe, his wife is pregnant so we gave him time off. But it’s better to ask my boss this. He will be back for next game though.”
Home United: Kenji Rusydi (GK), Abdil Qaiyyim, Aqhari Abdullah, Song Uiyoung (Amy Recha 87′), Faritz Hameed, Iqram Rifqi (Fazli Ayob 54′), Izzdin Shafiq (C), Faizal Roslan, Shahril Ishak, Hafiz Nor (M Anumanthan 53′), Isaka Cernak
Warriors FC: Mukundan Maran, Delwinder Singh (Suria Prakash 84′), Kento Fukuda (C), Ammirul Emmran, Emmeric Ong, Sahil Suhaimi, Ignatius Ang, Khairul Nizam, Hafiz Sulaiman (Ismadi Mukhtar 60′), Tajeli Salamat, Ho Wai Loon (Shamil Sharif 77′)