By Alison ChinFollow @@AlisonChin9
Reporting from Queenstown Stadium
Turning in a disciplined performance, the much-improved Protectors denied Patrick Vallee's men any time on the ball and were ruthless in their finishing.
The speedy Jordan Webb got Home's opener five minutes from the half-time whistle after latching onto a sneaky through pass from Hafiz Rahim, before Sirina Camara doubled their tally via a free kick seven minutes after the restart. Lee Kwan-woo then put an end to any hope of a Tanjong Pagar fight-back when he scored the Protectors' third with a cool finish into the bottom corner of the net.
The Jaguars' 100% record had come to grinding halt against Harimau Muda last week when the Malaysian Under-19 side left Queenstown Stadium with a share of the spoils. However, with Kamel Ramdani, Monsef Zerka and Ismael Benhamed in impressive form, Tanjong Pagar were still heavily favoured going into their game against Home.
Lee Lim-saeng's men had collected just one point over their last three games, a run that has caused the Protectors coach many a sleepless night.
To compound matters, Lee was forced to exclude attackers Indra Sahdan Daud and Masato Fukui from the starting line-up after the duo received red cards during their previous encounter against Woodlands Wellington, leaving Webb as the team's only recognized centre-forward.
Custodian Jang Hong-won was anything but inspiring in the team's clash with the Rams, making it no surprise that the Home coach decided to place the more experienced Shahril Jantan in the hot-seat this time.
However, it was Aurelien Herisson's goalmouth that was threatened first. With quite a few of the Jaguars big men upfield to contest a third minute corner, Protectors midfielder Lee Kwan-woo started a quick counter-attack by picking out Webb, who was dashing on the outside of Tanjong Pagar right-back K Vikraman. The former Hougang man sprinted past his marker with ease before driving a low cross through the penalty area that Aliff Shafaein missed by a hair's breadth.
With neither side willing to allow the other any time on the ball, both teams applied heavy pressure, resulting in several physical challenges by the likes of Asraf Rashid, Song Ui-young and Nor Azli Yusoff. Both sets of fans were equally vocal in urging the referee to take action, so the trio found their names in Jansen Foo's book by the 14th minute.
Eager to give the travelling support something to cheer about, Webb made himself a thorn in the side of the Jaguars defence with his nimble feet and burst of pace. The attacker was through on goal twice in the span of six minutes, but was called offside in the 19th minute before Herisson dashed out to collect a lofted ball that went in between Walid Louis and Hanafi Salleh the next time round.
Vallee's team were struggling with the energy on show by Home, resorting to long balls and crosses when they could not shake off the close marking. The Protectors' decision to stay tight on them proved to be the right one, as Ahmad Latiff demonstrated in the 40th minute.
The former Tampines Rovers midfielder was given the freedom to run through the middle during a rare lapse in the concentration by Lee's team, allowing him to pick out a rampaging Vikraman, who had moved up in support down the right flank. A tantalizing cross came off the foot of the full-back, but it left Zerka and Benhamed wishing they were but a few inches taller as the ball bounced over them for a goal-kick.
Latiff and his team-mates were left to rue that miss as Home opened the scoring just a minute later. Running with intent toward the centre of the opposition penalty box, Hafiz sneaked a short ball toward Webb that wrong-footed the Jaguars defence, drawing out Herisson from his line to allow the 25-year old to put into the ball into the far corner of the net.
When the referee blew for the end of the first period, the Protectors were clearly in the ascendency and they doubled their advantage seven minutes into the second half. Vallee pulled nine men back into his team's penalty area when Home were awarded a free kick, but it proved to be of little avail as Camara struck his attempt hard and low to beat Herrisson.
There was no respite for the Jaguars' and their meltdown against a team lacking two of its best attackers was completed in on the hour mark.
Protectors skipper Nor Rahman played an accurate punt toward Firdaus Idros, which the Singaporean managed to control near the right corner flag. Coming in behind to support was Webb, received the ball but found no one in the penalty area to cross to, forcing him the play a direct pass to a lurking Lee Kwan-woo just outside the box.
The former Suwon Samsung Bluewings player wriggled his way to a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Herrisson despite being surrounded by a group of black and gold shirts, before he coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Conceding their second goal from a set-piece earlier, Vallee's men came close to being punished once again in the 73rd minute after Sazali Salleh clattered Song near the edge of the danger area. While Camara's attempt was direct and incisive, Lee Kwan-woo's shot was a tad more cultured, but no less threatening. The Korean's curler looked like it was headed for the top left hand corner of the Jaguars goal only for it to sneak over the bar.
With the finishing line in sight, Home set out their stall to defend for what was left of the game, leaving Webb alone upfront. That did not stop the Canadian from being involved in the last attack of the match.
Chasing down a long ball from his defenders three minutes from time, Webb found Hanafi in close attendance but nearly took advantage of miscommunication between the Tanjong Pagar player and his goalkeeper to put the ball into an empty net before the referee blew for a foul the other way.
Despite many expecting the Jaguars to put Home to the sword in this fixture, the Protectors took three points by an emphatic margin, which should prove to be a confidence boost as they attempt to reach the upper echelons of the table.
Tanjong Pagar: Aurelien Herisson, Ahmad Latiff (Rizawan Abdullah 78'), Walid Louis, Hanafi Salleh, Azhar Ahmad, K Vikraman, Sazali Salleh, Kamel Ramdani, Asraf Rashid (Hafiz Nor 45'), Ismael Benahmed, Monsef Zerka
Home United: Shahril Jantan, Nor Azli Yusoff, Noh Rahman, Aliff Shafaein (Sofiyan Abdul Hamid 45'), Masrezwan Masturi, Lee Kwan-woo (Mustaqim Manzur 80'), Hafiz Rahim, Sirina Camara, Firdaus Idros, Song Ui-young, Jordan Webb
Image courtesy of Home United Football Club (Jaron Lee)