No AFC Cup joy for Home on Singapore’s National Day

Home United failed in their quest to become ASEAN champions in the AFC Cup after a 2-0 second leg defeat to Philippines’ Ceres-Negros at Panaad Park and Stadium meant that the Singapore side lost 3-2 on aggregate.  

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An early goal from OJ Porteria and an excellent Manuel Ott free-kick sealed victory for Ceres,  after they overcame a 2-1 deficit from the first leg away.

Home got off to the worst possible start by conceding inside the first 90 seconds.

A teasing left-wing cross from Iain Ramsay eluded Home centre-backs Abdil Qaiyyim and Afiq Yunos, with Porteria volleying home after Sirina Camara failed to clear at the back post.

The Protectors could have levelled matters on seven minutes when Khairul Nizam knocked on Hariss Harun’s lofted ball, but Juma’at Jantan could only volley straight at Ceres custodian Roland Muller.

Ceres should have gone two up on the night in the 14th minute when Ramsay’s cross was handled by Abdil in the area. However Spanish forward Fernando Rodriguez blazed over from the spot to the dismay of the home crowd.

Rodriguez was put through on goal two minutes later, only to be denied by the onrushing Hassan Sunny.

Aidil Sharin’s men slowly got into the game midway through the first half, but were unable to put away their opportunities — Izzdin Shafiq’s free kick taking a bounce off the ground before coming off the crossbar in the 26th minute.

Two minutes later, Faris Ramli did well down the left byline to tee up Stipe Plazibat but the Croatian hot shot somehow fired straight at Muller.

In the 39th minute, Nizam fired wide from the edge of the box after being set up by Plazibat.

They were duly punished for not putting away those opportunities with Ceres doubling their lead and going 3-2 up on aggregate just before half time.

Manuel Ott curled home a stunning free-kick from 20 yards out that left Hassan grasping at thin air, after Porteria was brought down by Afiq.     

Knowing that they needed just a goal to push the game into extra time, Aidil brought on Croatian forward Marijan Suto at half-time to bolster the attack but to no avail.

Another good chance fell the way of the away side on 65 minutes when Plazibat’s half-cleared cross fell to Faris, but the Singapore international could only fire his left-footed straight at Muller.

The Protectors then went agonisingly close in the 83rd minute, with Plazibat’s close-range volley coming off the crossbar after a half-cleared free kick.

There was one last opportunity deep into injury time, but Faris’ volley went through a sea of players before being smothered by Muller.

The final whistle then sounded to signal a historic victory for Ceres as the Home players sunk to the ground in despair.

The Protectors will have little time to dwell on the loss though, with a two-legged Singapore Cup quarter-final against Brunei DPMM coming up this weekend.

Photos: Home United