By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Reporting from the Bedok Stadium
Hafiz Rahim put the Protectors ahead at the Bedok Stadium on Tuesday when he pounced on a loose ball and fired home on the stroke of halftime, before Firdaus Idros made sure of the win in the 60th minute when his 15-yard effort was deflected past a hapless Takuma Ito.
The result puts Home in a strong position to progress to the last four ahead of next Monday's return encounter at the Bishan Stadium, and also keeps alive their chances of claiming their sixth Singapore Cup title.
With both sides entering the clash on the back of defeats in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League, Tuesday offered an excellent opportunity to get back on track with a morale-boosting victory.
And it was the visitors who started the brighter of the two sides, threatening the opposition goal for the first time in the 11th minute when Firdaus floated a telling cross to the back post, only for Jordan Webb to slice his header back across the face of goal.
Seven minutes later, they had another chance when Indra Sahdan Daud threaded a neat ball to release Hafiz inside the area, but he opted to shoot instead of squaring the ball and blazed over from a tight angle.
Geylang were struggling to find any sort of rhythm early on it took until the half-hour mark before their first chance arrived; Yasir Hanapi latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the area and sending a difficult shot narrowly over.
One positive for the Eagles was the presence of inspirational captain Jozef Kaplan, who was returning after missing last Friday's 1-0 league defeat to DPMM FC through suspension, and he was looking as their likeliest source of a breakthrough.
Two minutes before the break, the Slovak led a Geylang counterattack and sent Stefan Milojevic racing down the right and into the area with an incisive through-ball, but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Sirina Camara denied him with a perfectly-timed sliding block.
And just two minutes later, Camara's intervention proved crucial as Home edged ahead just before the halftime whistle; Webb firing in a cross that was deflected into the path of Hafiz, who made no mistake in smashing the ball into the back of the net.
In a bid to address his side's lack of a cutting edge up front, Geylang coach V. Kanan decided to bring ex-Home man Shotaro Ihata on for Andrew Tan at the break and he nearly turned provider nine minutes after his introduction, chipping a good cross to the back post to find Milojevic, only for his blistering half-volley to be bravely blocked by Ismail Yunos.
Protectors boss Lee Lim-saeng soon decided to make a substitution of his own when he sent on Masrezwan Masturi a minute before the hour mark, and it took the veteran just seconds to make and impact as he found space down the left and floated a lovely cross to Firdaus, whose well-struck volley took a wicked deflection and left Ito with no chance.
15 minutes from time, Geylang's hopes of rescuing something from the game all but evaporated when they were reduced to ten men after Yasir Hanapi picked out a second booking and was handed his marching orders.
And as the game entered its closing stages, it looked extremely likely that Home were going to add a third, only for Hafiz and Choi Jae-won to both waste decent chances inside the area.
Nonetheless, it was a good evening's work from the Protectors, who are now in pole position to make sure of their qualification for the semi-finals on Monday.
Geylang International: Takuma Ito, Khairulnizam Jumahat, Khayrulhayat Jumat, Norihiro Kawakami, Jalal, Andrew Tan (Shotaro Ihata 46'), Wahyudi Wahid, Taufiq Ghani, Yasir Hanapi, Stefan Milojevic, Jozef Kaplan.
Home United: Shahril Jantan, Ismail Yunos (Syahiran Miswan 72'), Noh Rahman, Sirina Camara, Juma'at Jantan, Hafiz Rahim, Song Ui-young, Firdaus Idros (Choi Jae-won 74'), Lee Kwan-woo (Masrezwan Masturi 59'), Jordan Webb, Indra Sahdan Daud.
Image courtesy of VOXSPORTS (Darren Ho)