Home United 1-2 Singapore Armed Forces FC: Advantage Warriors in quarter-final first leg

The game got off to a slow start with both teams struggling to string a series of passes together and penetrate the opposition’s backline. A mixture of tenacious defending and lack of creativity and finesse in midfield meant there was little goalmouth action for large parts of the first half.

The deadlock was broken only in the 37th minute when Tatsuo Inui dispatched a wonderful left-footed free kick past the hapless Nazri Sabri.

The game burst into life and Home United immediately went on the attack starting with nifty footwork and control by Frederic Mendy leading up to a mistimed acrobatic shot by Franklin Anzite in the 41st minute.

Home United piled on the pressure and in the 43rd minute, Mendy’s looping header was again acrobatically tipped over by Shahril Jantan. The subsequent corner was guided across goal by Mendy from the far post and fell perfectly for Shi Jia Yi and the captain drilled a half volley into the net only to realise the referee had blown for a foul.

The disappointment was short-lived though as the dimunitive Jia Yi found himself totally unmarked in the box and headed in from a corner to level the game in stoppage time of the first half.

Home United’s efforts were undone early in the second half when defender Rosman Sulaiman inexplicably turned an intended clearance past his own goalkeeper.

Coach Lee Lim Saeng reacted immediately by bringing on Jeremy Chiang and Shotaro Ihata using up all his substitutes within 10 minutes of the start of the second half.

The second half was antithetical to the first and both teams pushed forward more intently. The closest Home United came to equalising was when Qiu Li thumped a shot agonizingly close to the top corner of the goal.

SAFFC were also denied what seemed to be a blatant penalty in the 73rd minute when the marauding Shimpei Sakurada was carelessly brought down in the box.

The young Nasri Sabri, standing in for the injured Lionel Lewis, almost singlehandedly kept Home United in the tie by producing a double save in the 81st minute. Nasri showed no signs of nerves as he successfully thwarted attack after attack by the opposition including a one-on-one situation with midfielder Ruzaini Zainal in the 84th minute.

Home United will be rueing their profligacy in front of goal and will look to improve on that next week in the 2nd leg at the Chua Chu Kang Stadium. On the contrary, SAFFC will be delighted to have come away with a victory and two away goals placing them in pole position to advance to the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup.

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