Home end campaign firing blanks

Home United's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League campaign came to a miserable end on Thursday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Courts Young Lions.

Mendy denied by the linesman's flag...

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

For the second week running, the much-vaunted Protectors attack failed to fire against a team at the wrong end of the table, although French striker Frederic Mendy did hit the back of the net twice in each half, only for both efforts to be ruled out for offside.

Just like in last week's goalless draw against bottom side Woodlands Wellington, Lee Lim-saeng's men were missing a trio of key players in captain Shi Jiayi, goalkeeper Lionel Lewis and forward Qiu Li, although Franklin Anzite and Sofiyan Abdul Hamid were reinstalled to the starting XI at the expense of Rhysh Roshan Rai and Shotaro Ihata.

Young Lions, on the other hand, entered the game looking to end the campaign on a high after being consigned to a bottom-four finish, but their prospects of victory looked bleak given coach Robin Chitrakar was without a host of defenders, including Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Gary Loo and Emmeric Ong.

As he has done for most of the season, captain Hafiz Abu Sujad was once again deployed at left-back while Fazli Ayob was tasked to fill in on the right of defence but the latter's attacking instincts almost came to good use in the fifth minute, when he bombed forward and ghosted past Jeremy Chiang before drilling in a dangerous cross that was alertly cleared away by Sofiyan.

A minute later, Home created their first chance when a corner from Firdaus Idros was met with a firm header by Mendy but Neezam Aziz, deputising for the absent Syazwan Buhari, did well to save with his knees.

The rookie goalkeeper's inexperience then almost cost him dearly in the 16th minute when he parried a fiercely-struck freekick by Masrezwan Masturi straight into the path of Mendy, who proceeded to lash home the rebound. Thankfully for the hosts, the linesman's flag came to their rescue as the strike was rightfully ruled out for offside.

A minute before the half-hour mark, the Protectors were once again awarded another freekick in a dangerous position and this time it was Anzite's turn to try his luck, but Neezam showed clean hands on this occasion and managed to hang on to the Central African Republic international's 30-yard drive.

Four minutes later, Anzite had an even-better chance to break the deadlock when his header from a Song Ui-young corner was blocked but fell straight back into his path. But from six yards out, he was only able to poke his follow-up effort back off the post.

It was then the hosts' turn to come close in the 34th minute when Jonathan Toto miscued a Sherif El-Masri left-wing cross into the path of the waiting Nazrul Nazari. It appeared a mere formality that the 21-year-old would fire his side ahead but Nazri Sabri made an amazing recovering save to block his strike from close range.

Two minutes before the break, Neezam was once again called into action when he made a smart save to deny Indra Sahdan Daud, after indecision in the Young Lions backline allowed him to latch onto a flick-on header by Mendy and fire a shot away.

Toto, who scored a fine individual effort in his side's 2-2 draw with Albirex Niigata last Saturday, then wasted a good chance in the 48th minute when he received a neat pass by Zulfahmi Arifin and took Arai out of the equation with a sharp turn, only to screw a shot way wide of the far post with only the keeper to beat.

The 21-year-old Frenchman did hit the target five minutes later when he outjumped his marker to meet a searching cross from Sirina Camara, but Nazri reacted in time to tip it wide albeit in unconvincing fashion.

Two minutes after the hour mark, Zulfahmi nearly broke the deadlock in stunning fashion when he picked up the ball 35 yards out from goal and let fly with a piledriver that arrowed just wide of the top corner.

With the clock fast ticking down, both sides started to play with increased urgency and 13 minutes from time, the visitors had the ball in the back of the net again when Mendy met a raking cross from Jeremy Chiang and outjumped Neezam before planting a header home, but once more, the strike was chalked off by the linesman's flag.

Four minutes later, the Protectors had one final chance to grab the win when Firdaus charged down an attempted clearance by Hafiz and advanced into the box, but with two team-mates to pick out, he proceeded to send his cross straight into the waiting arms of the opposition keeper, leaving both sides to settle for a share of the spoils.

To add insult to injury, Mendy was shown a red card by referee K. Kalimuthu following the final whistle for dissent, capping off a disappointing night at the office for Home.

Courts Young Lions: Neezam Aziz, Fazli Ayob, Faritz Hameed, Sirina Camara, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Anumanthan Kumar, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari (Fareez Farham 83'), Benjamin Kristofferson Lee (Syafiq Zainal 90'), Sherif El-Masri (Shahfiq Ghani 90'), Jonathan Toto.

Home United: Nazri Sabri, Masrezwan Masturi, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Kenji Arai, Jeremy Chiang, Nor Azli Yusoff, Song Ui-young, Franklin Anzite, Firdaus Idros (Justin Khiang 90'), Frederic Mendy, Indra Sahdan Daud (Shaheer Afiq 90').

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