Aidil Sharin dubbed last night’s match as the biggest of Home United’s season and he had every reason to do so, especially given the fact that the Protectors had a genuine chance of being the first local club to win the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Asean Zone Final.
Indeed Home needed the support of the 12th man for such an important occasion and the local fans didn’t disappoint. In a time where many are quick to point out that Singapore football’s support has eroded, today proved otherwise.
Fans began streaming into the Jalan Besar stadium hours before kick-off to see Home bring it home, pun intended. The fact that it was on the eve of the country’s National Day only seemed to add to the atmosphere. It certainly worked in the home’s side’s favour as fans were driven by a fierce sense of patriotism and were vocal in supporting their local team to emerge victorious.
By the time it was kick-off, a partisan crowd had emerged mostly decked in red with two Singapore flags clasped firmly in their hands as they cheered for Home. On the pitch Home was boosted by the return of star forward Song Ui-young and it was his partnership with Shahril Ishak which gave the Ceres-Negros backline all kinds of problems.
Despite their away goal advantage, Home weren’t content to sit back. Fans who follow Home will know however that Aidil never plays conservatively no matter the occasion and it was the same here today. Ceres though had a few missed chances in the opening minutes but The Protectors managed to survive their opponents’ threatening moments.
But in the 37th minute, tragedy struck for Home as defender Abdil Qaiyyim was forced to leave the pitch after an injury. While losing Abdil was a blow, the team managed to soldier on. In the second half, Home came out stronger and in the 62nd minute they scored through Shakir Hamzah who thumped in a header from Izzdin Shafiq’s corner.
It must be said in the thick of all the action Izzddin had been a standout performer in the middle of the park. He completely controlled the midfield and his range of passing was a sight to behold at times causing confusion in the Ceres camp. Home’s captain consistently kept his side moving as they looked to banish the nightmare of 2017 when they lost 3-2 on aggregate to the same opponents.
Subsequently, the icing on the cake came in the 74th minute for Home when Song stabbed the ball back into the net to give the home side a comfortable 2-0 win and a 3-1 win on aggregate. As the referee blew the final whistle, a deafening roar was heard from the 3000 plus strong crowd.
It must’ve been ages since such a roar was heard in local football. Not just the roar but the Kallang Wave too made a grand return as fans soaked up the atmosphere. In the midst of it all Kit Chan’s National Day Parade anthem titled ‘Home’ pervaded the Jalan Besar.
Pride swelled in Singaporeans as they lip sync to the anthem side by side in unison while waving their flags with alacrity. If this was the gift coach Aidil wanted to give Singaporeans then he has more than succeeded. But more importantly Home gave us the belief that there is life in Singapore football and in doing so they returned our pride even if it was just for one glorious night.
Home will next play a two-legged inter-zonal tie with North Korean side April 25 Sports Club on Aug 21 and 28.