Relief for Home after long-awaited first win

The Protectors claimed a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Garena Young Lions to end their worst-ever start to the S.League season since 1997. 

Enduring their worst start to a S.League season in 19 years, Home United must have feared the worst when they fell behind after just 11 minutes on Thursday night at the Bishan Stadium.

Goalkeeper Zulfairuuz Rudy, who made his debut last week, ill-advisedly rushed out of his area to head a deep free-kick, only to make a hash of it. The loose ball fell kindly for Fareez Farhan to slot home his third of the season from 25 yards.

But there was to be a happier ending this time for the Protectors – who started this game at the foot of the S.League table – as a brace from Khairul Nizam inspired them to a 4-1 victory over Young Lions.

It was Danish star Ken Ilsø who got Philippe Aw’s charges back on track in the 18th minute. Having been denied by a superb point-blank save from Benjamin Bertrand a few minutes earlier, the striker stabbed home Sirina Camara’s excellent cross three minutes later to level.

It was all Home from then on and another goalkeeping error, this time from Bertrand, saw Zulfahmi Arifin’s harmless-looking free-kick bounce right into goal on the half-hour to give them a half-time lead.

“We gave them a 1-0 lead and that goal definitely inspired them, but I'm very happy with how our boys responded,” a relieved Aw said. “After four games without a win, we could have crumbled after that mistake, but we didn’t.

“For Zulfahmi’s free-kick, well, we’ve seen Willian (of Chelsea) score goals like this. We spoke about it yesterday at training and I told him that it was time he scored from free-kicks; it doesn’t matter how.”

It was the Nizam show after the break, as he struck an excellent double to kill any lingering hopes of a Young Lions comeback.

Ken Ilso and Nizam combined to devastating effect against Young Lions.

His first on 50 minutes was created by Ilsø, who spun away from two defenders on the left before delivering a sumptuous cross with the outside of his right boot for Nizam to meet with a perfect looping header.

Nizam then took his tally to three for the season on 83 minutes as he pounced on Marcus Wheeler’s botched defensive header to clinically rifle home from ten yards.

Aw praised the 25-year-old, who has been playing on the right wing instead of his usual centre-forward position in recent games.

“He played as a number nine for us in his youth days here, but there’s something we are trying now,” he explained. “Hopefully, he grows into it and maybe when he goes to the national team [where there is more competition upfront], he can play there [on the right as well].”

For Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse, the fifth straight defeat saw them replace Home at the bottom of the table.

He praised his charges for a first-half display that was full of pressing and spirit, but acknowledged that they still have a long way to go to match the rest of the league.

This is particularly true defensively, where they have now conceded 16 goals in just six games.

“In the second half, we didn’t play anymore,” he rued. “We must think about the first half [and build on that] but we have to work a lot to be better in all areas - physically and technically… We must be better defensively and stronger.”

The big win for Home, who scored more than twice for the first time this season, saw them climb to sixth spot ahead and leave Balestier Khalsa as the only team yet to record a victory.