HOME UNITED 1
(Lee Kwan Woo 15)
SINGAPORE - It has taken them six months, but Home United seem to have finally found their top gear.
The Protectors chalked up another deserved victory on Friday night, as they beat Warriors FC 1-0 in their Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League match at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The win came on the back of an impressive two-legged RHB Singapore triumph over Geylang International last week.
It is a far cry from their early-season form, when they won just two of their first eight games.
Home are still 10 points behind league leaders Tampines Rovers, having played two matches more.
But they could close that gap in the coming weeks as their next three S-League games are all against teams in the bottom half of the 12-team league.
Protectors assistant coach Aidil Shahrin, who faced the press after the game in place of coach Lee Lim Saeng, felt the team are still not at their peak.
"We're getting there," said Aidil, when asked if Home are close to their best.
"Tonight was a good three points. It was a slim win, but it's good for the morale of the team. What pleased us the most was that the players worked hard for 90 minutes, gave their all and fought to the end."
Aidil added that Home, who are now fourth, have not given up on the title.
"We can't say no, right?" he said with a smile, when asked if the team could be crowned champions.
"We'll fight all the way and we can see the boys have the desire. We just want maximum points in our next few games and we'll see where we go from there."
All guns blazing
Home started with all guns blazing and midfielder Hafiz Rahim broke through the Warriors defence in the second minute - only to be denied by goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.
After 15 minutes, Home marquee player Lee Kwan Woo broke the deadlock, albeit in controversial circumstances.
The former South Korea international playmaker appeared to go down in the penalty box under the slightest of touches from Warriors defender Jeremy Chiang, but referee Abdul Malik did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Lee dusted himself off to take the penalty and, while his shot was saved by Hassan, he was quickest to the rebound and stabbed the ball home.
Home looked comfortable throughout the game and Jordan Webb, Indra Sahdan and Ismail Yunos all had great chances to score the team's second goal, but they all lacked the finishing touch.
Warriors' best chance arrived in the 87th minute when Shimpei Sakurada's dipping volley sailed just over Shahril Jantan's crossbar, with the Home goalkeeper beaten.
Any hopes of a Warriors comeback, however, vanished just two minutes later when Erwan Gunawan was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the night.
Defeated coach Alex Weaver was annoyed with the way Home's winner was scored.
Friday's result meant his team stay mired in 10th place and another defeat in their next four games would confirm their place in the bottom six for the rest of the season under the league's new 2.5-round format.
"It's disappointing when you lose a game 1-0 to a penalty that was awarded like that," he said.
"I don't know if it was 100 per cent (a penalty), you'll have to ask Lee Kwan Woo whether he could have stayed on his feet.
"I'm really disappointed because if we had won tonight, it would have been "game on" in our attempts to make the top six.
"It's not impossible now, but it's extremely difficult."
■ WARRIORS: Hassan Sunny, Jeremy Chiang, Abdil Qaiyyim, Stanislav Vidakovic, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Daniel Bennett (Erwan Gunawan 46), Kazuyuki Toda, Prakash Manikam (Shimpei Sakurada 46), Shi Jiayi (Matthew Abraham 62), Tatsuro Inui, Sufian Anuar
■ HOME: Shahril Jantan, Ismail Yunos, Noh Rahman, Sirina Camara, Juma'at Jantan, Firdaus Idros, Hafiz Rahim (Sofiyan Abdul Hamid 69), Song Ui Yong, Jordan Webb, Indra Sahdan (Syahiran Miswan 77)), Lee Kwan Woo (Choi Jae Won 67).
Albirex out to stop slide
Albirex Niigata will be desperate to get their title charge back on track with a win against Geylang International tonight.
The White Swans, who are six points behind league leaders Tampines Rovers having played a game more, have been on a slide recently.
They have won just two of their last six S-League games, hardly the form of title hopefuls.
Geylang are not exactly flying themselves.
The Eagles have also won just two of their last six S-League games and come into tonight's game on the back of a morale-sapping Singapore Cup quarter-final defeat by Home United.
They will be without inspirational skipper Jozef Kaplan, but 38-year-old assistant coach Md Noor Ali will come out of retirement to play a part in the match, after passing his 2.4km run.
The match, which will be played at the Jurong East Stadium, will kick off at 8pm.
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