Aqhari Abdullah on mission to avenge 2017 AFC Cup heartbreak against Ceres

Home United midfielder Aqhari Abdullah
Kelvin Leong Kelvin Leong

Aqhari Abdullah is ready to use 2017’s AFC Cup heartbreak against Ceres Negros as motivation when the AFC Cup Zonal Final kicks off this Wednesday.

Some teams lose in a Cup final and wait decades for a chance of redemption. For Home United, it took less than 12 months for that golden opportunity to come.

Having lost 3-2 on aggregate to Ceres Negros in last season’s AFC Cup Zonal Final, the two teams will meet again in this year’s edition at the same stage.

“Yes, definitely it is revenge for us, we played Ceres so many times as well as the Zonal Final last year,” Aqhari told FOX Sports Asia.

“It was so heartbreaking that we lost. We tried and tried and tried but just couldn’t get the goal we needed so this year, we will try and attack, go all out and win the Final and move on to the next stage.”

Aqhari started last year’s first leg at Jalan Besar Stadium in which the Protectors won 2-1 but he was left out of the starting lineup in the return leg which they lost 2-0.

This year, the roles have reversed as the Protectors will travel to Bacolod for the first leg before returning to Jalan Besar Stadium for the second leg.

Aqhari reckons this will prove to be “a key difference” for his team as they look to be the first Singapore club to win the Zonal Final.

He said: “They are physically quite strong because most of them are European (mixed heritage). They went in very hard on us in the second leg but this year the advantage is with us (with the first leg away in Philippines) and it will be important for us to have our fans at Jalan Besar for the return.”

With star man Song Ui-Young doubtful due to injury, Home have recruited A-League winger Isaka Cernak into the mix but Aqhari feels that the game-changing player they need is already within their ranks.

“Our star man is Shahril Ishak and there is no doubt about that,” he added. “You may see him as old at 34 but he means so much to us as a team.

“He holds the ball up and is very, very clever when he has it so for me, he is and will always be our main man in attack.”

The first leg will take place at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod on August 1 before both teams do it all over again seven days later at Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.

Winners will proceed to the Inter-Zonal Final to face North Korean side April 25.