Hariss gives Home advantage in AFC Cup Asean final
Home not celebrating after first-leg win as Ceres look to bounce back at home
|HOME UNITED||CERES NEGROS|
|(Stipe Plazibat 11-pen, Hariss Harun 84)||(Martin Steuble 45+3)|
Ankles were jabbed, jerseys tugged, and there were even kicks thrown to heads.
Jalan Besar Stadium was a war zone last night, and understandably so.
This was a battle to be crowned the best South-east Asian team under the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) - the first one in history - and neither Home United nor Ceres Negros backed down.
The Singapore side edged a thriller to win the first leg of the AFC Cup Asean final 2-1, but Philippine side Ceres promised to bounce back in the second leg in Bacolod City on Aug 9.
Home coach Aidil Sharin walked into the post-match press conference looking pleased, while his counterpart Risto Vidakovic delivered an ominous message that seemed like a veiled battle cry to his players.
"This is the worst game I've seen my team play in the last few months - we didn't look like a team," said the Serb.
"The lines were separated, and I don't know why we couldn't play (as a team)... but my team know how we play.
"I expect more from my team (in the return leg)."
Ceres have scored a whopping 53 goals in 18 matches in the Philippines Football League, and they showed glimpses of that ability last night, putting the ball in the Home net three times, only to see two of those goals ruled out for offside.
The visitors were livid with Japanese referee Hiroyuki Kimura, and not just for the two disallowed goals.
Home took the lead under controversial circumstances in the 11th minute, when Kimura awarded a penalty after Stipe Plazibat went down in a crowded Ceres penalty box.
Replays showed that the referee's view could have been blocked at the point the errant tackle was made.
The Croat stepped up to the spot and calmly stroked the ball home to settle early nerves.
But Home still looked edgy, as the visitors started to assert themselves in the lead-up to the two disallowed goals.
This is just the first half of a 180-minute game.Home forward Stipe Plazibat
First, Kevin Ingresso's 28th- minute free-kick eluded everyone before going in at the far post. It was perhaps rightly ruled out for offside, with two Ceres players attempting to play the ball in front of Home goalkeeper Hassan Sunny before the ball sailed in.
Four minutes later, the assistant referee's flag was raised before an Iain Ramsay cut-back was tapped in by an unmarked Fernando Rodriguez.
Ceres surrounded Kimura, and understandably so - Ramsay appeared to be in line with at least three red shirts in the Home penalty box.
Martin Steuble eventually scored with the last kick of the half, his speculative shot from 30 metres bounced off the turf before squirming past Hassan, who appeared to have it covered.
The second half was an even encounter, with Faris Ramli constantly tormenting the Ceres' defence, and Khairul Nizam forcing goalkeeper Roland Muller into a few good saves.
But it was Hariss Harun - making his AFC Cup debut for Home - who bagged the winner, ghosting in at the far post to score six minutes before full-time.
"The goal was to win this game, but 2-1 is a very tricky result. We cannot celebrate like we had won the Cup, this is just the first half of a 180-minute game," said Plazibat.
He also bristled at the suggestion that his team got off lucky because of Ceres' two disallowed goals.
"If it's offside, it's offside. If it's a penalty, it's a penalty," he said.
Home coach Aidil agreed that it's only half the battle won.
"I'm very happy for the team. The boys kept fighting even when it was 1-1," he said.
"But the second leg won't be easy. We have to recover well, and plan how to play Ceres (in the Philippines)."