COURTS Y LIONS 0
HOME UNITED 2
(Azhar Sairudin 52, Ambroise Begue 60)
Azhar Sairudin arrived at Home United at the start of this season with a reputation for being one of the best playmakers in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
But he was made to bide his time, after failing to nail down a place in coach Philippe Aw's starting 11.
When he was finally given a chance to prove his worth in May, the former Hougang United midfielder grabbed it with both hands and he has not looked back since.
Last night, the 28-year-old once again played a pivotal role with the opening goal in his side's 2-0 win over Courts Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium, as the Protectors extended their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.
While his impressive displays have seen him establish himself as a key player for Home, Azhar, who now has six goals to his name this season, is not resting on his laurels.
"Of course, I'm very happy with how I've been playing, but I think there's still a lot of improvement left for me," he told The New Paper.
"I'm still working on my fitness but, hopefully, I can carry on getting better and keep my spot in the starting 11 even when we have all the players back.
"In the games where I've scored, I think I was always in the right places at the right time, so I just have to do my job and finish when the chances come my way."
Last night's game did not exactly start off well for Azhar and his teammates as they found themselves under severe pressure in the first half.
The Young Lions made the better start - Protectors goalkeeper Shahril Jantan had to be alert to deny Amy Recha in the 21st minute, before R Aaravin made a crucial clearance from a Sherif El-Masri effort moments later.
The visitors eventually found their rhythm after half-time and a brilliant move between their two main attackers handed them the lead in the 52nd minute.
Receiving the ball in his own half, Azhar played some lovely one-twos with Ken Ilso to break free and race through before smashing an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net.
Right on the hour mark, Home doubled their lead as Ilso emerged the provider again with a through-pass to Ambroise Begue, who got enough on his shot to steer it past Syazwan Buhari and into the bottom corner.
The Young Lions came close to pulling one back when Shameer Aziq had a one-on-one effort saved by Shahril, before Jordan Webb could only fire the follow-up shot against the post.
Home always remained in control from then and were unlucky not to add to their tally in the closing stages, as Azhar and Imran Sahib wasted a couple of decent opportunities.
Speaking after the game, Home coach Aw said: "Azhar is a very technical player who has the ability to find that killer pass.
"He scored again, but we like him to get fitter and we'll continue to push him harder.
"We're building very good momentum and what's pleasing for us is another clean sheet."
Young Lions coach Juergen Raab bemoaned their failure to make the most of their first-half dominance.
"We had a really good first half and had about four excellent chances but weren't able to finish," the German lamented. "That's what we have to work on, but the way we played in the first half was exactly how I imagine football should be played."
- COURTS YOUNG LIONS: Syazwan Buhari, Fadli Kamis, M Anumanthan, Amirul Adli, Farhan Rahmat, Afiq Noor, Ammirul Emmran (Shahfiq Ghani 76), Nur Na’iim Ishak (Suria Prakash 54), Jordan Webb, Amy Recha, Sherif El-Masri (Shameer Aziq 43)
- HOME UNITED: Shahril Jantan (Hyrulnizam Juma’at 72), Ang Zhiwei, Shahrin Saberin (Imran Sahib 86), R Aaravin, Juma’at Jantan, Yasir Hanapi, Kamel Ramdani, Stanely Ng (Fazli Ayob 65), Azhar Sairudin, Ambroise Begue, Ken Ilso
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Azhar Sairudin (Home United)