There was no love lost between Home United and Tampines Rovers as the two sides played out a goalless Singapore Premier League (SPL) draw at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday.
Home will surely look back on this match as two points lost as they failed to put away a number of opportunities in the second half.
The Protectors remain in third, four points behind Tampines and having played a game more.
They had started off the better of the two sides and could have scored after just two minutes, but Shahril Ishak thrashed high and wide from a tight angle.
It was a fiercely-contested first half, with both sides going in hard on their challenges early on.
Irwan Shah was first into the referee’s book on seven minutes as his high and mistimed challenge on Home winger Hafiz Nor earned him a yellow card.
Tampines gradually grew into the affair and almost scored in the 21st minute. Khairul Amri connected well with a Yasir Hanapi free-kick into the area, but his header was denied by the right-hand post.
Amri went close again two minutes later, with another header off Ryutaro Megumi’s right-wing cross escaping the bar.
Jurgen Raab’s side continued to spurn their chances, with Zulfadhmi Suzliman thrashing wide from three yards out – albeit under pressure from a Home defender – after being teed up by Amri in the area.
Shameer Aziq then failed to keep his volley from the edge of the box down as Tampines somehow failed to grab a goal before half time.
The pendulum swung the other way after the break as Home were largely on top of proceedings in the second period.
Amy Recha was brought on to replace Suhairi Sabri and his introduction added more impetus for the Protectors in the attacking third.
On 60 minutes, Amy’s right-wing cross was half-cleared into the path of M. Anumanthan, but the latter’s half-volley was well grasped by Tampines goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
Aidil Sharin’s men went agonisingly close four minutes later, with Shahril looking set to convert after capitalising on Jordan Webb’s slack back pass to round Syazwan. However the latter got back in the nick of time to deny the veteran attacker from slotting into an empty net.
Tampines did have a couple of chances to score thereafter, but Megumi and Zulfadhmi failed to put their efforts on target.
Heading into the dying stages of the game, Home were the stronger of the two sides but could not find their way past Syazwan.
13 minutes before the end, Shakir Hamzah’s defence-splitting pass released Amy through on goal but the latter’s shot was denied by the legs of Syazwan.
The match eventually ended as a stalemate with Tampines arguably the side happier with the result.
Home will face Young Lions at the same venue on Wednesday, while Tampines will go away to visit Albirex Niigata FC (S) three days later.
Home coach Aidil Sharin: “We should have won today but we had no luck… We played much better and looked much fitter than Tampines despite playing more back-to-back games than them. Not to forget we were playing against four ‘foreigners’.
“At the start of the season, we were scoring a lot but also leaking a lot of goals. Now because we are missing some key players… we don’t score but we keep clean sheet. That’s how football is. It’s two points lost for us today but I’m still happy with their performance.”
Tampines Jurgen Raab: “We has better chances in the first half and must score a goal, but we could not do it. After 60 minutes, Home had better chances. It’s always a good match between these two teams and I’m happy with this draw.
“It’s not easy because Daniel Bennett had a back problem (and left on the bench), (Amirul) Adli (who was not included in the match day squad) has a muscle problem from the last game and Yasir was in hospital this morning because his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. This result is good because it keeps the gap between us and Home… And Brunei (DPMM FC) drew (2-2 against Balestier Khalsa FC) yesterday, so I must be happy.”
Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Aqhari Abdullah, Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq (C), M. Anumanthan, Hafiz Nor (Christopher Van Huizen 83’), Suhairi Sabri (Amy Recha 46’), Iqram Rifqi (Faritz Hameed 75’), Shahril Ishak
Tampines Rovers FC: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Shameer Aziq, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Madhu Mohana, Irwan Shah, Ryutaro Megumi, Irfan Najeeb, Jordan Webb, Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Daniel Bennett 87’), Yasir Hanapi (Hafiz Sujad 80’), Khairul Amri (Fazrul Nawaz 72’)