This is Home, truly: Protectors deliver National Day present
Aidil Sharin's men clinch AFC Cup Asean zone title against the odds
|HOME UNITED||CERES NEGROS|
|(Shakir Hamzah 62, Song Ui Young 75)|
*Home win 3-1 on aggregate.
Home United coach Aidil Sharin wanted to give Singapore an early National Day present by winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Asean zone final.
And his side did it in style by beating Philippine team Ceres Negros 2-0 in front of 3,392 fans in the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Aug 8, the eve of National Day, to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory.
The Protectors will now face North Korean side April 25 Sports Club on Aug 21 and 28 in the inter-zonal semi-finals.
Amid a backdrop of gloom in local football, the Protectors offered a ray of light and a case study of winning against the odds.
Only two foreigners in their line-up? No problem.
Playing against a side stacked with imports and naturalised citizens? Not the first time any way.
Home had beaten Ceres in the group stage four months ago. The question was: Could they do it in the two-legged final, where they had lost to the same opponents last year?
The signs were there that they could.
The tie was delicately balanced at 1-1 after last week's first-leg clash in Bacolod City, leaving Ceres with no choice but to attack. Home had to weather an early storm in the first half as Ceres sought to turn the tie around.
But the Protectors seized the initiative after the break, as Shakir Hamzah headed in the opener from a corner kick by Izzdin Shafiq in the 62nd minute, before South Korean forward Song Ui Young sealed the win with another header 13 minutes later, off Faritz Hameed's cross.
After the final whistle, as the Home players and staff exchanged hugs and hi-fives, the strains of Kit Chan's National Day classic "Home" filled the main stands of the Jalan Besar Stadium.
This is Home, truly.