RHB SINGAPORE CUP
HOME UNITED 2
(Qiu Li 61, Yasir Hanapi 66)
LOYOLA MERALCO SPARKS 0
They may have been omitted from recent national team selections, but two former Singapore internationals stood tall in an error-strewn game at the Bishan Stadium last night.
Home United beat the Philippines' Loyola Meralco Sparks 2-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final clash in the RHB Singapore Cup, with Precious Emuejeraye marshalling the defence with distinction and Qiu Li doing the damage at the other end of the pitch.
Qiu, 33, shone the brightest on a night where passes went astray, shots sailed over the bar and positional discipline was poor.
Lee Kwan Woo was the beneficiary of poor passing in the Loyola defence in the 61st minute and the Korean laid the ball perfectly for the unmarked Qiu, who didn't need a second invitation to slot home.
There was palpable relief from the Home bench, who were getting nervous after seeing their front men miss chance after chance and, five minutes later, they were all smiles.
Qiu threaded a lovely pass to release Sirina Camara, who somehow squirmed past Alexandro Elnar to cut back a cross for Yasir Hanapi (left) to fire home from the top of the box.
"We worked so hard to keep a clean sheet and then gave it up on our own error," bemoaned Loyola coach, Vincent Santos.
"It was hard to refocus after that and it showed in the manner in which we conceded the second goal."
But it wasn't all one-way traffic. Home went into the game after collecting just one point in their last three games in the S.League and played with the look of a team desperately short of confidence.
Loyola could have taken the game by the scruff of the neck if James Younghusband, Graham Caygill or Lee Joo Young had not been profligate in front of goal.
It was a fact not lost on Home coach Lee Lim Saeng.
"Of course this game gives us confidence, but the players must show their value on the pitch," he said.
"We created chances and should have scored in the first half. We must also reduce the big gap between defence and attack."
After both Lee (65th) and Qiu (70th) were withdrawn from action, Home seemed to slip down a couple of gears and it gave the Philippines side hope for Thursday's return fixture at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"Obviously this isn't how we wanted to come out of the first leg," said Santos.
"Stranger things have happened in football, even if we score in the last 10 minutes of the second leg, it'll be game on."
This article was first published on JULY 1, 2014.
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