It was all too easy for Home United as they collected a 2-0 win over Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium to go within a point of second-placed Tampines Rovers.
First-half strikes by Amy Recha and Hafiz Nor in quick succession ensured Home collected the third points and kept a fourth successive clean sheet.
Meanwhile the Young Lions’ struggles continue with a ninth straight game without victory as they remained second-from-bottom – a point adrift of seventh-placed Geylang International.
The last time these two sides met, Home required a late goal by Iqram Rifqi to salvage a 1-1 draw at the Singapore National Stadium.
However the Young Lions could not pull off a similar heroic showing this time round, as they were forced to field a weakened line-up due to the unavailability of several key players – including Irfan Fandi (away on trial) and Ikhsan Fandi (injured).
In fact Coach Fandi Ahmad was only able to name five subs on the bench and it was no surprise that Home dominated proceedings from the get-go.
The Protectors should have gone ahead on 12 minutes when Aqhari Abdullah was adjudged to be fouled by Adam Hakeem in the area.
However Shahril Ishak’s resulting penalty was well read by Hairul Syirhan as the Young Lions goalkeeper dived to his right to tip it around the post.
Young Lions did carve out a good opportunity in the 17th minute, but Naufal Azman’s opportunistic strike off Zulqarnaen Suzliman’s slide-rule pass from the edge of the box went straight to Home custodian Rudy Khairullah.
Fandi Ahmad’s boys then paid the price for falling asleep at the back as they conceded the opening goal two minutes later.
Izzdin Shafiq’s lofted pass went in between Young Lions right-back Prakash Raj and centre-back Jacob Mahler, before Amy stole in to slot the ball past the onrushing Hairul from eight yards out for his second goal of the season.
Home swiftly made it 2-0 on 27 minutes through a move right off the training ground.
Shahril laid off Izzdin’s short free-kick into the path of Hafiz, whose first-time shot seemingly took a slight deflection before sailing over the rooted Hairul.
That goal stung Fandi into action as he replaced midfielder Syed Firdaus Hassan with Ifwat Ismail on 40 minutes, as the latter joined Naufal Azman upfront.
However the Young Lions continued to struggle in the attacking third. Home could have scored a third on 51 minutes, but Iqram could only drag wide from six yards out.
There was one good moment for the Young Lions on 63 minutes when Prakash drilled in a teasing cross form the right, but Ifwat was inches away from applying the finishing touch.
Towards the final 15 minutes, Hairul stood strong in between the sticks to deny Hafiz and Shahril. However there was no stopping Home from running out winners on the night.
Both sides will play at the same venue again this weekend. Young Lions will host Hougang United on Saturday, while Home play Balestier Khalsa 24 hours later.
Home United FC Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “The first half was comfortable, the second half – we can do better… But the most important thing is that we got our objective to get three points. I set the players another target to keep a fourth straight clean sheet and they did it. It’s nice to see Shahrin (Saberin) coming in (for the suspended Abdil Qaiyyim) to do well.
“Yes, we worked on that (for the second goal) many times in training and I’m happy that it worked. It’s nice to see Hafiz getting back on the score sheet. Now the target is just to collect as many points as possible and put pressure on Tampines.”
Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “We were disappointed because we were trying to get a point with an under-strength team, but it’s good to see some other players coming in. We did poorly in the first half…. poor marking, poor concentration, poor passing; we respected the opponents too much and sat too deep. In the second half, we came out to play and did better although the delivery wasn’t good.
“The first goal… the ball should have been cleared but there was some miscommunication in defence – that happens. The second goal – it was a deflection but otherwise Hairul was superb in goal. We must learn from this – playing against experienced players and be more composed to keep the ball. We can play.”
Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Aqhari Abdullah, Shahrin Saberin, Fazial Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq (C), M. Anumanthan (Christopher Van Huizen 72’), Hafiz Nor (Amiruldin Asraf 85’), Amy Recha, Iqram Rifqi (Faritz Hameed 58’), Shahril Ishak
Young Lions: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Prakash Raj, Jacob Mahler, Adam Hakeem, Syahrul Sazali, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Syed Firdaus Hassan (Ifwat Ismail 40’), Joshua Pereira (C), Rusyaidi Salime (Asshukrie Wahid 82’), Hami Syahin, Naufal Azman