Tampines Rovers are now slight favourites to make the RHB Singapore Cup semifinals after claiming a slender 2-1 win over Home United in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
It looked like the game was heading for a 1-1 draw after Shahril Ishak’s second-half goal had cancelled out Khairul Amri’s goal just before half-time.
However Canadian attacker Jordan Webb popped up with the winning goal for the Stags six minutes from time to ensure Jurgen Raab’s side have one foot in the semis of the Singapore Cup, despite Yasir Hanapi’s late sending-off.
The game also marked the debut of additional assistant referees for a local professional game – an initiative rolled by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for the Cup this season to assist referees in making critical decisions, in particular for incidents in the penalty area.
Home started out the better of the two sides and could have scored after just seven minutes, but Hafiz Nor lashed wide of the left-hand post from just inside the area.
That stung Tampines into action with Amri curling straight at Home goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah from range two minutes later.
Home were largely on top in the first half though, but failed to put their chances away.
Shakir Hamzah lashed into the side netting from a tight angle on 31 minutes, before Hafiz was denied by Tampines custodian Syazwan Buhari in a one-on-one situation four minutes later.
Shahril also found Syazwan in his way on 39 minutes when he tried to squeeze home from a tight angle.
Tampines would come alive again towards the end of the half, with Zulfadhmi Suzliman just firing off-target after being released by Ryutaro Megumi in the 41st minute.
The Stags would make Home pay for their profligacy as they broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time.
After a half-cleared corner, Ryutaro Megumi hooked a superb right-wing cross back into the area for Amri to nod home his 16th goal in all competitions this season.
Home Coach Aidil Sharin reacted by introducing Isaka Cernak in place of Arshad Shamim, with the Australian recruit making his Protectors debut on the right wing.
The Protectors duly found the equaliser two minutes after the hour mark. Christopher Van Huizen whipped in a brilliant cross from the left which caught out Syazwan, before falling to Shahril who gleefully tapped home into an empty net for his 15th goal of the year.
Tampines were, however, the more energetic side going into the last 25 minutes with Amri and Megumi both missing opportunities to score.
The Stags’ pressure would pay off six minutes from time, with Webb thumping home the rebound after Captain Fahrudin Mustafic’s header off Yasir Hanapi’s free-kick was parried by Rudy into his path.
The victory was, however, tempered by Yasir’s dismissal deep into injury time as he received a second yellow card for kicking the ball out of play to delay a Home free kick.
The second leg will be played on September 19 at Our Tampines Hub. Home will now turn their attentions to the AFC Cup as they play Ceres-Negros away in the first leg of their ASEAN Zonal final next Wednesday, while Tampines return to the same venue to play Young Lions in a Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) game.
Home United FC Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “We knew that during the 50-50s, our boys will hold back so we wanted to postpone the game and be fresh to go to Philippines. But we respect the (FAS) Competitions department and we know they also have their hands tight.
“We score a good goal and it’s good to see Chris deliver a confident performance. We need more players to step up, not just Shahril or Song (Uiyoung). As for Isaka, he arrived only two weeks ago and he struggled to adapt to the weather here in the first week. It’s the first time he’s partnering these players so he need time to get the understanding.
“It’s just one goal so I’m confident we can get back into this game. By September, we will definitely be fresher.”
Tampines Rovers FC Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “I cannot understand why the referee blow for that (Yasir’s sending-off). He should watch how the referees lead in other countries. Every touch, every small thing – he blows. He was battling for the ball and it wasn’t intentional.
“We were nervous in the first half-hour, but after that we came into the game and gave them no open chances. We controlled the game and Home did not exactly press us towards the end.
“It’s only half time and we are not sure what’s our situation in September.”
Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Aqhari Abdullah, Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq (C), Christopher Van Huizen, Arshad Shamim (Isaka Cernak 46’), Amiruldin Asraf (Muhelmy Suhaimi 66’), Hafiz Nor (Iqram Rifqi 80’), Shahril Ishak
Tampines Rovers FC: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Irfan Najeeb (Hafiz Sujad 76’), Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Madhu Mohana, Irwan Shah, Amirul Adli, Jordan Webb, Yasir Hanapi, Ryutaro Megumi, Khairul Amri (Daniel Bennett 90’), Zulfadhmi Suzliman