Yadanarbon vs Home United: Protectors seek good start in AFC Cup return

AFC Cup| Mandalar Thiri Stadium| Wed 22 Feb | 5pm AST (6.30pm SGT)

Billed as

Tricky start to Home’s first Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup campaign in three years.

The lowdown

Yadanarbon Form

  • Yadanarbon 1-1 Rakhine United (MNL)
  • Shan United 1-1 Yadanarbon (MNL)
  • Ayeyawady United 1-2 Yadanarbon (MNL)
  • Sukhothai 5-0 Yadanarbon (AFC Champions League Qualifiers)
  • Magwe 0-1 Yadanarbon (MNL)

Home United Form

  • Home 3-0 Phnom Penh Crown (AFC Cup play-off Leg 2)
  • Phnom Penh Crown 3-4 Home (AFC Cup play-off Leg 1)
  • Geylang International 4-1 Home (S.League)
  • Home 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Balestier Khalsa 0-5 Home (S.League)

S.League powerhouses Home United are back in the AFC Cup – the regional’s second-tier club competition – for the first time since 2014 and they are placed in Group H (ASEAN Zone) alongside Myanmar’s Yadanarbon and Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh.

The top team and best-placed runners-up in the zone’s three groups will progress into the Zonal semi-finals, which will be played out on a knockout format to determine the ASEAN Zone winner.

The ASEAN Zone winner will then progress into the inter-zone play-off semi-finals to determine who meets the winner of the West Asia Zonal final in the grand final (Confusing much, we know…)

The Protectors overcame Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown (PPC) 7-3 over a two-legged play-off to qualify for the group stages to make the tournament proper for the eighth time in their history.

New players like Hassan Sunny, Adam Swandi, Izzdin Shafiq and Stipe Plazibat all featured and impressed in patches – giving coach Aidil Sharin good food for thought ahead of this game.

Home will face a stiff test of their credentials, though, going away against Yadanarbon – who finished 14 points ahead of their nearest rivals Yangon United to win the 2016 Myanmar National League (MNL).

Founded only in 2009, the Boxing Cake won four league titles in eight years, as well as two MNL Cups and the 2010 AFC President’s Cup.

Yadanarbon have several past and present Myanmar internationals in their ranks, including six names – goalkeeper Yan Aung Lin, midfielders Ye Koo Oo, Hlaing Bo Bo, Myo Ko Tun and forwards Aung Thu and Win Naing Soe who played last November’s AFF Suzuki Cup.

The promising duo of Sithu Aung and Shine Thura had featured in the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore, while captain Yan Paing had scored 31 goals in 60 matches for the national team.

Team News

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Hassan will be a vital factor in Home's regional challenge

Home brought along 18 players for this away trip, including new centre-back Afiq Yunos, who recovered from an ankle injury, and new Croatian forward Marijan Suto, who will figure primarily for the club’s Prime League side.

The trio of Adam, Irfan Fandi and Amiruldin Asraf linked up with the team, after featuring in the Singapore Under-22s' 3-1 win against their Myanmar counterparts at the Thuwanna YTC Stadium over the weekend. Amiruldin scored twice in that game to inspire the Young Lions’ victory.

New winger Christopher van Huizen did not travel though, after failing to recover from an injury sustained against PPC two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Yadanarbon should be at full strength with no major injuries or suspensions reported.

Key Battle: Aung Thu vs Afiq Yunos

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Afiq is in line to make his competitive debut for Home

Yadanarbon’s biggest threat should come in the form of Aung Thu, who impressed and scored two goals en route to Myanmar’s run into the 2016 Suzuki Cup semi-finals.

The 20-year-old lacks in height (1.67m) and physique, but more than makes up for that with his acceleration, dribbling ability and persistence to close down opposition defenders.

In his tracks could be Afiq, who is set for his competitive debut for Home after recovering from injury. The 1.84m tall centre-back is excellent in the air, but will need to be immaculate on the ground as well to keep Aung Thu at arm’s length away from goal.

The Coaches

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Aidil was a star midfielder for Home previously

About 13 years ago, Aidil Sharin featured for Home as an elegant playmaker in their surprise run to the AFC Cup semi-finals. Now he will be hoping to replicate that feat as head coach of the Protectors.

So far, the 39-year-old has a record of seven wins in 10 competitive matches since taking charge last July.

Similarly, Yadanarbon counterpart Rene Desaeyere has done well since taking over in 2015 – winning the MNL title in his second season in charge.

The 69-year-old began his managerial career with top Belgian clubs like Standard Liege and Genk, before moving to Asia in the late 90s with Seongnam FC and Cerezo Osaka. He then moved to Southeast Asia, where he led Muangthong United to become champions of Thailand in 2010.

Facts and Figures

  • While this is Home’s eighth appearance in the AFC Cup, it will be only Yadanarbon’s second.

  • Yadanarbon first featured in the AFC Cup in 2015, where they failed to make it out of the group stages after attaining just three points from six matches.

  • That same year, Yadanarbon faced up to a Singaporean club side (in the form of Warriors FC) for the first time in their history. Both sides faced off in the AFC Champions League playoffs first round, with Warriors winning 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.

FourFourTwo prediction

With a boisterous crowd of almost 30,000 expected, Yadanarbon are certainly no pushovers on their home ground. Thus a 2-2 draw may not be the worst result for the Protectors to come away with…

Photos: Home United