Izzdin Shafiq ran the show with a goal and two assists as Home United FC served up a convincing 4-1 victory over Young Lions at Bishan Stadium on Wednesday night to close within five points of second-placed Tampines Rovers FC.
Young Lions did well to level the scores in the first half through Adam Hakeem, after Shakir Hamzah had given Home an early lead.
However Iqram Rifqi and Song Ui-Young scored one apiece on either side of the break, before Izzdin Shafiq rounded off the victory with a late strike.
The fans had barely settled into their seats when Home opened the scoring with just two minutes on the clock.
After Iqram was fell outside the area, Captain Izzdin played in a peach of a free-kick for Shakir to nod in his second goal in as many games.
The early setback woke Young Lions up from their slumber and they fired a warning sign to the home side on 13 minutes.
Irfan Fandi somehow scuffed wide just in front of goal after Joshua Pereira had done well to knock on Zulqarnaen Suzliman’s teasing right-wing cross into the box.
The Protectors failed to take heed as the visitors restored parity two minutes later in comical fashion.
Off a Syahrul Sazali free-kick, Irfan got the better of Home goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah in the air. Faritz Hameed was the quickest to the loose ball, but his attempted clearance ricocheted off Adam before going over the line to his amusement.
The Young Lions did well to contain Home for the rest of the first half, but lost their concentration in the final minute before the break.
On-song Izzdin played a superb ball over the top for Iqram, who judged the flight of the ball perfectly to thump home a superb first-time volley past a helpless Young Lions custodian Hairul Syirhan from just inside the area.
Home led 2-1 at half-time, but Young Lions could have levelled matters for a second time five minutes into the second half.
Substitute Naufal Azman connected well with Hami Syahin’s free-kick, but his header was tipped away by Rudy.
That save would prove crucial as Home went on to grab a third in the 55th minute, which all but sealed the three points for them.
With Iqram drawing a foul from Zulqarnaen Suzliman after a jinking run into the area, Song stepped up to convert from the spot for his 13th goal in all competitions this season despite Hairul’s best effort.
Izzdin then capped off an outstanding individual display five minutes from time, as he thumped home from the edge of the box after being teed up by substitute Hafiz Nor.
The victory was, however, marred by a suspected anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to French wide man Sirina Camara as he lasted just 15 minutes on the pitch before being carried off on 71 minutes.
Home will take some confidence from the result as they face Albirex Niigata FC (S) next at the Jurong East fortress on Saturday, while the Young Lions will look to stop their five-match winless run when they host Balestier Khalsa FC 24 hours later.
Home United FC Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “It’s good to be back to winning ways. Now we put the AFC Cup at the back of our minds and focus on the points we lost earlier in the league season. Izzdin’s been improving; he was carrying injuries but now he’s fully fit and back to his best. It’s good to see him scoring and enjoying the game.
“It’s hard for me to drop Anu (M. Anumanthan), but I have to look at who’s performing and consider the three Under-23 slots. Suhairi (Sabri) did well (in Anu’s position) and he deserves to be the (Singapore) Under-23 team, just like Iqram (Rifqi).
“I spoke to the boys that they must keep winning and put pressure on top. First (catching Albirex) is difficult, but football is full of surprises and let’s see what we can do against them on Saturday.”
Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “The players tried and reached their maximum effort today; they’re struggling with fitness, with eight games in three weeks which is killing them. We’re still making the same mistake with the boys starting to lose concentration. The first goal – marking was not good. The second goal – it was poor marking again and there was no tracking of the diagonal pass.
“But I thought the penalty (for Home’s third goal) was very dubious. It was a clean tackle, he (Zulqarnaen) made a clean tackle and nobody was appealing for a penalty. It’s ridiculous and I hope I don’t get a fine (for speaking out).
“I cannot fault the players for their commitment. They come from school and army, but nobody said they are not fit to play. We still have one more game on Sunday before a good (13-day) break.”
Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Aqhari Abdullah, Abdil Qaiyyim, Shakir Hamzah, Faizal Roslan, Faritz Hameed (Hafiz Nor 82’), Suhairi Sabri, Izzdin Shafiq (C),Iqram Rifqi (Sirina Camara 56’, Christopher Van Huizen 71’), Song Uiyoung, Shahril Ishak (C)
Young Lions: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Irfan Fandi (Syed Firdaus Hassan 64’), Adam Hakeem, Syahrul Sazali, Taufiq Muqminin (C) (Amer Hakeem 90’), Joshua Pereira, Prakash Raj (Naufal Azman 46’), Hami Syahin, Haiqal Pashia, Ikhsan Fandi