Cup specialists Home looking for seventh success in S'pore Cup
BALESTIER KHALSA v HOME UNITED
(Tonight, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
It has been 11 long years since they last won the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title.
But in the RHB Singapore Cup, Home United have enjoyed far better fortune.
With six triumphs to their name, they are the most successful club in the competition.
Beat Balestier Khalsa tonight, and they can make it two in a row, after beating Tanjong Pagar in last year's final.
While disappointed not to win the league this term, captain Noh Rahman insisted that they are still spurred by the prospect of a cup win.
"I don't think you can say that winning the Singapore Cup would be a consolation after missing out in the league," he said.
"It's a different competition and it's still good to have that winning feeling of champions.
"At a club with the stature and history of Home United, you always want to win silverware.
"You look at players like Indra (Sahdan) who have played in so many finals and won so many medals, but the feeling of playing in a final is still the same for him. You want to win it no matter what."
With players such as Noh Rahman and Indra, Home have no shortage of players who know what it takes to win.
But coach Lee Lim Saeng has warned his team against complacency, especially against a Balestier side who have enjoyed an impressive year under coach Marko Kraljevic.
"Of course, the experience our players have is good for the team but we cannot just count on that and expect to get the job done," the South Korean said.
"Teamwork, discipline and desire - these are the things that will really count.
"We know Balestier are strong defensively and it's always difficult to find space in the attacking third. A lot will depend on our combination play and finding the right ball to create clear chances.
"We must not be over-confident, we must focus on working together in order to play to our best.
I always have the belief that we can get the desired result if we are able to play our game."
Fazrul Nawaz, who has impressed in his first season at Bishan Stadium, hopes to make a big contribution.
The 29-year-old is their top scorer with 11 goals in all competitions, and he is relishing the chance of playing in a cup final.
Said Fazrul, who has won the Singapore Cup with Warriors FC and the Malaysia Super League with LionsXII: "Being a striker, there's always pressure to convert the chances that come your way but you just have to deal with it.
"I've managed to find the net consistently but I have to credit my teammates for creating the openings.
"It doesn't matter who scores - Friday's final is all about Home United winning.
"I'm very excited and looking forward to playing my part to make Home champions again.
"Of course, winning the MSL last year was a great feeling, but the Singapore Cup is equally special."
The writer is a freelancer.
Yasir targets dream finish
Home United's utility man Yasir Hanapi is also one of their most reliable and consistent performers.
Be it as a winger, a rightback or a central midfielder, the 25-year-old has carried out his tasks with distinction in this Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season.
In the RHB Singapore Cup final tonight, he is set to be unleashed from his most natural position on the right flank, as Home look to use his pace and guile to carve open Balestier Khalsa's resolute defence.
Having enjoyed his first campaign at the Bishan Stadium after moving from Geylang International, he is now hoping to end it on a high.
Said Yasir, who has scored five goals in all competitions: "It has been one of my better seasons.
"I'm pleased with how I've contributed to the team and it would be a good feeling to end the year by winning something.
"I was a substitute the last time I won the Singapore Cup (with Geylang in 2009) so I'm pretty excited at the chance to play a more important role."
Home have won two of their three clashes with the Tigers this season.
However, Balestier recorded a 3-0 win when they met at the Jalan Besar Stadium back in June.
While the Protectors enter the final as slight favourites, Yasir feels they cannot afford to underestimate their opponents.
"I think it's important that we don't concede an early goal, like we did earlier this season," the ex-LionsXII man said.
"We ended up having to chase the game and that left gaps behind for Balestier to exploit.
"If we can keep it tight early on, we have players like Lee (Kwan Woo) and Fazrul (Nawaz) to hurt them."