Home beat Albirex to go top of S.League

Home United moved to the top of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League on Sunday evening after recording a 4-2 win over Albirex Niigata at the Bishan Stadium.

Indra driving straight at the Albirex defence.

By Gabriel Tan at the Bishan Stadium

Sho Kamimura drew first blood for the White Swans when he gave them the lead in the fourth minute, but goals from Frederic Mendy and Shotaro Ihata put the hosts ahead at the break.

Then, in the space of three second-half minutes, Qiu Li put Home 3-1 up from the spot, Kamimura pulled one back for Albirex, before Mendy made sure of all three points when he grabbed his second of the game.

As he has done for much of this season, Home coach Lee Lim-saeng named an attacking line-up, fielding Mendy, Ihata, Qiu and Indra Sahdan Daud, while playmaker and captain Shi Jiayi was deployed in the heart of defence.

However, Lee's adventurous game plan backfired when Albirex took the lead after just four minutes. Latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the area, Shuhei Hotta fired in a fierce shot which was deflected straight into the path of Kamimura, who lashed home a left-footed strike into the bottom corner.

Stunned into action, the Protectors nearly produced an instant reply two minutes later when Mendy found space down the right and drilled in a low cross which found Ihata at the near post. The Japanese striker took a touch before firing in a shot which Ito initially fumbled, although he recovered and gathered the ball right on the goal-line, much to the relief of Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama.

Buoyed by that near miss, Home started to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park and should have equalised in the 17th minute when Ito dropped a freekick straight at the feet of Mendy, who somehow failed to connect cleanly and direct his effort goalwards.

However, the hosts continued to push forward relentlessly and their pressure finally paid off in the 23rd minute. A long ball into the Albirex box was only half-cleared to Indra, who nodded the ball back into the danger zone, where the unmarked Mendy proceeded to unleash an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

The White Swans were looking extremely vulnerable down the left and just six minutes later, the Protectors exposed them once again to take the lead. Picking up possession on the right side of the box, Mendy did well to hold off the attentions of Kunihiro Yamashita, before lofting a cross straight onto the head of former Albirex man Ihata, who got just enough on his header to beat Ito.

The visitors were looking bereft of ideas up front with playmaker Musashi Okuyama uncharacteristically quiet, although he showed what he was capable of four minutes before the break when he left two Home players for dead with a clever shuffle in the midfield, before laying the ball off to Toshikazu Soya, who sent a 25-yard strike just wide.

Home started the second half in the same manner they had played for much of the first and looked dangerous in the final third, with Mendy causing all kinds of problems for the Albirex defence.

The game then took a controversial turn just after the hour mark when referee Abdul Malik awarded the hosts a penalty after Indra was bundled over inside the area. Qiu stepped up to the spot, only to see his poorly-hit effort saved by Ito. However, the referee ordered the kick to be retaken, and this time the Home forward made no mistake, going the same side and wrongfooting the Albirex custodian in the process.

But just as things were beginning to look comfortable for the Protectors, Albirex pegged them back immediately by scoring straight from the restart. Once again, it was the lively Kamimura who dealt the damage, leaving Home keeper Lionel Lewis stranded with a well-hit piledriver from the edge of the area.

Nonetheless, that glimmer of hope for the White Swans was short-lived as Home then mustered an immediate response of their own - Mendy connecting with a hopeful ball over the top and glancing a header off the post to restore his side's two-goal advantage.

Now back in control of the game, the hosts looked content to sit back and let their opponents come at them, but for all their possession, Albirex struggled to create a decent opening despite the attacking introductions of Masatake Sato and Yuhei Shiratori.

Instead, it was Home who had the better chances in the closing stages. First, Qiu fired a volley just wide after Indra had forced his way into the box, before excellent work from Jeremy Chiang down the left resulted in a shooting opportunity for John Wilkinson, but he sent his effort narrowly over.

Still, Home had done enough by then to seal the win that takes them top of the table, a point ahead of DPMM FC, Balestier Khalsa and Harimau Muda.

Home United: Lionel Lewis, Nor Azli Yusoff, Shi Jiayi, Franklin Anzite, Jeremy Chiang, Firdaus Idros, John Wilkinson, Indra Sahdan Daud, Qiu Li (Sofiyan Abdul Hamid 87'), Frederic Mendy, Shotaro Ihata.

Albirex Niigata: Takuma Ito, Hidekazu Yamamoto, Norihiro Kawakami, Kunihiro Yamashita (Yuki Ichikawa 39'), Takeshi Ito, Shuhei Hotta, Atsushi Shimono, Musashi Okuyama (Yuhei Shiratori 85'), Toshikazu Soya, Sho Kamimura, Yasuhiro Yamakoshi (Masatake Sato 74').

Attendance: 1,254

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