Ceres vs Home United: The final hurdle between Protectors and ASEAN glory

AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final second leg | Panaad Park and Stadium | Wed 9 Aug | 7.30pm

Billed as

Now-or-never for both clubs in their bid to become kings of Southeast Asia.

The lowdown

After a well-contested first leg at Jalan Besar Stadium a week ago, in which Singapore’s Home United did just enough to edge Philippines’ Ceres-Negros 2-1, the sides meet again in Bacolod City to determine who rules the ASEAN region.

HOME UNITED FORM

  • Home 2-1 Ceres (AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final Leg 1)
  • Home 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Home 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (League Cup)
  • Hougang United 1-1 Home (League Cup)
  • Warriors FC 4-3 Home (League Cup)

Home may rue the number of opportunities which they failed to convert that night as Ceres got a decisive away goal and will need just a 1-0 win this time around to be crowned zonal champions.

During the post-match press conference, leading striker Stipe Plazibat cut a displeased figure – knowing that the job was far from done. 

It looks like a stern 90 (or even 120) minutes in store for the Protectors, with Ceres undefeated in their last 18 home matches in all competitions – including four AFC Cup matches.

Aidil Sharin’s side has yet to keep a clean sheet on its AFC Cup travels this season too – winning 4-3 in Cambodia against Phnom Penh Crown, losing 1-0 in Myanmar to Yadanarbon, triumphing 5-4 in Vietnam against Than Quang Ninh and drawing 2-2 in Philippines against Global-Cebu.

In contrast, the Busmen thumped Singapore’s Tampines Rovers 5-0, held Malaysia’s Felda United 0-0, thrashed Vietnam’s Hanoi FC 6-2 and edged 2015 champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) 2-1 at the Panaad Park and Stadium.

Ceres are sure to take the fight to the Protectors

Home United also have the added pressure of delivering the goods, with the game being played on the same day as Singapore’s 52nd birthday.

Whoever triumphs on aggregate will reach the inter-zonal semi-finals where they will face Tajikistan champs FC Istiklol in a two-legged tie on August 22 and September 12.

CERES FORM

  • Home 2-1 Ceres (AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final Leg 1)
  • Ceres 2-0 Davao Aguilas (PFL)
  • Meralco Manila 0-7 Ceres (PFL)
  • Ceres 7-0 Ilocos United (PFL)
  • Global-Cebu 1-0 Ceres (PFL)

Team News

Home will have to contend without the services of key centre-back Irfan Fandi, who travelled to Peth, Australia to link up with the Singapore Under-22s in their preparations of the upcoming SEA Games.

Midfielders M.Anumanthan and Song Uiyoung are not also included in the 18-man travelling party, with the latter aiming to make his comeback from a medial collateral ligament (MCL) layoff in the Singapore Cup quarter-finals against Brunei DPMM.

However, Aidil can at least count on Adam Swandi and Amiruldin Asraf – with the duo opting to stay with the squad instead of joining the national under-22s.

As for Ceres, they have a largely full-strength squad to choose from with no major injuries or suspensions.

Key Battle: Hariss Harun vs Bienvenido Maranon

Without Irfan, Hariss is likely to be deployed as a centre-back again and his presence will be crucial in shutting out a free-scoring Ceres attack led by Maranon.

The 26-year-old Hariss, who won the AFC Cup with JDT in 2015, made use of his experience at this level to repel virtually every ball that came into the area in the first leg and popped up with the match winner as well.

Hariss will need to be at his best once more

The latter have been on song this season, with eight goals in this competition and 15 in total for the calendar year.

The Coaches

Both coaches will have plenty to ponder as they look to outdo each other tactically.

Home’s Aidil Sharin will have to choose between either Afiq Yunos or Abdil Qaiyyim to fill the void left by Irfan at the heart of defence.

As for Ceres’ Risto Vidakovic, it will be interesting to see if he continues to deploy Schrock on the right or put the former Bundesliga man in his more natural position of being a supporting forward.

In-game tactical changes are to be looked out for too, as seen by Aidil’s masterstroke of pushing Hariss up into central midfield in the final 20 minutes of the first leg.

Facts and Figures

  • In the zonal semi-finals, Ceres lost 3-2 against JDT in the first leg but managed to overturn the tie with a 2-1 victory in the second leg and progress via away goals.
  • Home’s Plazibat has recorded eight goals in the AFC Cup and 30 in all competitions in 2017.
  • In their last visit to Philippines, Home required a last-gasp Plazibat header to salvage a 2-2 draw against Global.

FourFourTwo prediction

It will not be easy, but we fancy Home to hold out for a 0-0 draw to be crowned champions on Singapore’s National Day. 

Photos: Home United