Home United vs Ceres: Protectors continue quest for ASEAN glory

AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final first leg | Jalan Besar Stadium | Wed 2 Aug | 7.30PM

Billed as

The first step to becoming kings of Southeast Asia for both clubs.

The lowdown

The moment of reckoning is upon us as Singapore’s Home United and the Philippines’ Ceres-Negros fight it out over two legs to determine who is the kingpins of the ASEAN region.

HOME UNITED FORM

  • 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)
  • Balestier Khalsa 1-2 Home (S.League)

Home topped a group consisting of Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh and Myanmar’s Yadanarbon, before proceeding to down Philippines’ Global-Cebu 5-4 over two legs in the ASEAN zonal semi-finals.

As for Ceres, they finished top in a group with Vietnam’s Hanoi FC, Singapore’s Tampines Rovers and Malaysia’s Felda United. The Busmen then drew 5-5 with 2015 champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) over two legs, but proceeded into the final due to the away goals rule.

However, both sides are coming into the game with differing form books since navigating through their respective semi-final ties.

Home have won just two out of seven games in all competitions after the thrilling 3-2 win over Global at Jalan Besar Stadium on May 30, while Ceres have won seven out of 10 since the 2-1 win against JDT in Bacolod City a night later.

Looking at the shape-up of the two squads, Ceres are the slight favourites to progress. However it is still very much anybody’s game.

CERES-NEGROS FORM

  • Ceres 2-0 Davao Aguilas (PFL)
  • Meralco Manila 0-7 Ceres (PFL)
  • Ceres 7-0 Ilocos United (PFL)
  • Global-Cebu 1-0 Ceres (PFL)
  • Ceres 5-2 Stallion Laguna (PFL)

Both teams will then meet again in the second leg at Panaad Park in Bacolod City to determine who goes through to the Inter-Zonal semi-finals, where the winning team will face a club from either the East Asia, Central Asia or South Asia zone.

Team News

Home do have a few concerns over their team selection.

First-choice goalkeeper and captain Hassan Sunny required 13 stitches to close up a cut under his right eye after colliding with Jordan Webb during last Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Warriors FC, while key centre-back Irfan Fandi was taken off early in that game after suffering memory loss – although both are likely to be risked for this clash.

South Korean playmaker Song Uiyoung is unlikely to play a part though as he continues his recovery from tearing his medial collateral ligament (MCL) during training in June.

On the positive side, the Protectors will be able to call upon the services of Singapore vice-captain Hariss Harun, who was ineligible for their previous AFC Cup matches, and mid-season signing M. Anumanthan. Both have met the AFC requirements to be registered with the squad.

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

Hariss will be key to Home's hopes. Photo: Home United

In addition, former Hoffenheim attacker Stephan Schrock and Swedish-born Filipino-Iranian forward Omid Nazari have been registered with the squad to add even more firepower to an already free-scoring side.

Key Battle: Stipe Plazibat vs Bienvenido Maranon

The best players rise to the biggest occasions, they say. So, it will be interesting to see how this duo attempt to outdo each other.

On one end, we have Croatian hot shot Plazibat who scored seven goals for Home in the AFC Cup and 29 in all competitions this season. Who can forget that last-gasp free kick against Global that sent the Protectors through to this stage?

On the other end, there is Spanish attacker Maranon who has recorded eight goals in the AFC Cup – including a scorcher from distance in the 3-2 defeat to JDT in the first leg of the zonal semi-finals – and 15 in all competitions.

The Coaches

It will be an interesting tactical battle between both coaches who love to go on the offensive.

The 40-year-old Singaporean Aidil Sharin has assembled an exciting Home team that has plundered an impressive 63 goals in 22 games in all competitions in 2017.

Meanwhile 48-year-old Serbian tactician Risto Vidakovic is not too shabby as well, with his Ceres side scoring 53 goals in 18 games thus far.

Facts and Figures

  • This is Home’s eighth appearance in the AFC Cup, with their best-ever finish coming in 2004 where they reached the semi-finals – losing 6-1 on aggregate to Syria’s Al-Jaish SC.
  • Meanwhile this is just Ceres’ second time in the tournament proper. They reached the round of 16 last season, where they lost 1-0 to an extra-time strike against Hong Kong’s South China AA.
  • Ceres’ last visit to Singapore ended in defeat as they fell to a surprise 1-0 loss against Hougang United in a Singapore Cup preliminary round game back in June.

FourFourTwo prediction

With so much quality on show, these sides may just cancel each other out in a 1-1 draw, leaving all to play for in the second leg.

Main photo: Lagardere Sports