Home United move to second place in the S.League after a match in which winger Qiu Li and striker Frederic Mendy were menacing throughoutThe Courts Young Lions’ decent run of late came to a halt at the Bishan Stadium on Sunday, after a goal from Firdaus Idros and a brace from Frederic Mendy gave Home United a deserved victory to move them up to second place in the S.League.
Prior to the match, Home was hopeful in overtaking second-placed Harimau Muda, who had a tough match ahead against defending champions Tampines Rovers.
But given that Robin Chitrakar’s Young Lions side had collected 10 points out of a possible 15, there were whispers of an upset by the visiting team.
The whispers got louder in the fourth minute of the match, after an excellent through pass from Young Lions midfielder Neil Vanu found his team-mate Benjamin Kristofferson Lee.
The low cross from the byline by the latter, however, found no one in the penalty box - but the incoming Jonathan Toto made no mistake with a well-struck effort to break the deadlock.
Instead of being deflated, Home became increasingly energised, especially in the form of winger Qiu Li - who did well to find Firdaus Idros in the penalty box, although the diminutive forward found himself outmuscled by the defence.
Faritz Hameed was just beginning to have a nightmare of an afternoon having to nullify the threat of Qiu. In the 11th minute a counterattack by the latter caught the Young Lions right-back and captain by surprise - but Qiu’s cross landed safely in the arms of goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
The Young Lions’ lead was inevitably cancelled out four minutes later, when Qiu again was able to break away from the defence to cross for Frederic Mendy, whose flick on found the lurking Firdaus who scored from close range.
From then on Home United took control of the match, dominating the proceedings in midfield and attack.
Home captain Shi Jia Yi was able to connect with a header from a John Wilkinson free kick in the 19th minute, by Syazwan was alert and caught comfortably.
Just before the half-hour mark Qiu shouted for his team-mates to push up and was almost rewarded. A fantastic cross from veteran Wilkinson found Qiu on the left, and the latter, who did well to beat the whole Young Lions defence, returned the ball to Wilkinson in the penalty box - but his effort only hit the post.
Firdaus, the goalscorer, was then replaced in the 35th minute by Japanese striker Shotaro Ihata, apparently due to concerns over the former’s fitness.
The move almost reaped dividends for Home coach Lee Lim Saeng, as Ihata left two defenders in the dust after a blistering run down the right flank, until he was brought down just outside the penalty box by Aqhari Abdullah. But Qiu Li’s free kick only ended up in the stands.
Home continued their dominance after the break and eventually found their breakthrough in the 48th minute. A delightful touch from Qiu Li was followed by an exquisite through pass to Franklin Anzité. The Central African Republic player then crossed for Mendy to head home his 10th goal of the season.
The Young Lions struggled to respond to the setback, with their best attempt in the 54th minute coming from Neil Vanu, who should have done better with his header after a cross from Benjamin Lee.
Vanu was then replaced by Fazli Ayob, but he was also unable to capitalise on the rare opportunities that came his way. Sherif El-Masri did well to cross to Fazli in the 65th minute, but the latter was unable to keep his header down.
Home United were desperate for a third goal and even when Aqhari required medical attention in the 72nd minute they chose to play on instead. Indra, who looked lively playing in the “hole” between midfield and attack, unleashed a shot which Faritz did well to clear off the line.
The 78th minute was the nail in the coffin for the Young Lions, as Shi Jia Yi’s cross well behind the halfway line found Frederic Mendy unmarked and one on one with Syazwan, who flailed hopelessly as Mendy beat him to the ball and headed into an empty net.
Qiu and Mendy continued the torment on Faritz and the rest of the Young Lions defenders down the left flank as both of them took turns to exert their authority on that side of the pitch.
To add insult to injury - literally - Mendy asked to be substituted in the final minutes of the game after apparently straining himself, yet still looked more than capable of tackling the Young Lions defence.
But by then the damage was already done and the Young Lions will have to do much better in the next half of the season to lift themselves off the bottom three in the league table.