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Protectors made to sweat!

Qiu Li was instrumental in Home United’s comeback (Photo: Ko Po Hui)
 
By Arief Aditya

It may be a six-nil scoreline in favour of Home United when these two sides met all the way back on the 18th of March this year at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

This time around, however, the Protectors were made to sweat against a very determined Tanjong Pagar United team.

In front of a healthy crowd of 1,441, Frederic Mendy’s 11th and 12th goals of the season ensured that the Bishan-based team overtook Tampines Rovers in the 2011 Great Eastern Yeos S.League standings.
Nevertheless, it did not start off as planned for Home United.

Right from the get go, Tanjong Pagar United’s plan to frustrate Home United worked to perfection.

Led by Delwinder Singh who was called up to the provisional national team for the first time earlier this week, the Jaguars’ defence successfully repelled the attacks of Home United.

Frederic Mendy’s woeful finishing did not help home United’s efforts as the 2010 S.League top scorer wasted glorious opportunities to put his team ahead.

Then, in the 28th minute, tragedy struck Home United.

Defensive stalwart, Kenji Arai, suffered from a muscle strain and had to be taken off.

The gap left by the Japanese proved pivotal as Tanjong Pagar United took a shock lead just before referee Muhammad Taqi signaled the end of the first half.

In the first minute of added time in the first half, Jaguars’ midfielder, Takaya Kawanabe, sent a hopeful lob through the middle and over Home United’s defensive line as he spotted the run of his teammate, Kim Jong Oh.

Controlling the ball with a deft first touch, he then sent the ball over the on rushing keeper, Lionel Lewis.

That goal sparked wild celebrations in the stands and certainly sent shockwaves in the Home United team.

One - Zero to Tanjong Pagar at half time!

It was not a surprise then that Home United were eager to begin the second half and for a moment, many would have thought that this could be one of those bad days in the office for Home United.

First, Shi Jiayi sent his free kick crashing against the crossbar in the 55th minute.

Then, eight minutes later, it was Qiu Li’s turn as his powerful drive from another free kick ricochet of Ridhuan Baharudin’s goal frame.

By then, even the most optimistic of Home United’s fans would be forgiven if they felt that an upset was on the cards.

Then, up stepped their chief striker, Frederic Mendy.

In the 63rd minute, Frederic Mendy equalized for Home United through a very well taken header.

Credit however must be given to his team mate, Juma’at Jantan, who provided the assist through a delightful cross from the left.

Just thirteen minutes later, Frederic Mendy scored his and his side’s second goal of the game after a miskick by substitute Firdaos Idros somehow found Mendy who gleefully tap in the ball across the goal at the far post.

By then, it was all going downhill for the Jaguars in spite of the valiant efforts to fight back.
Asraf Rashid scored the third goal to seal the victory for the Protectors just five minutes after coming on as a substitute to give Home United all three points as they overtook Tampines Rovers at the top of the S.League standings.

In the 89th minute, Frederic Mendy had the chance to make it four but after doing well to go round the keeper, his shot went straight to the woodwork, in what could be one of the misses of the season.
Nevertheless, it would not have mattered as the final whistle came shortly after.

Home United legend and current coach, S.Subramani, was obviously pleased with the manner in how his team responded after going a goal down.

“ It was a great win for us!”

“ In the first half, we didn’t do well. But the boys picked up in the second half and we scored the three goals which was very important for us.”

S.Subramani also admitted that Kenji Arai’s forced substitution was one of the factors why they went behind.

“ Kenji is a quality player and for him to be taken out, of course it became a factor.”
And so, you have it.

Home United’s 11th win of the season propelled them to the top of the S.League standings.

As for Tanjong Pagar United, it is evident that they are improving as the season goes by.

Coach Terry and his charges should be proud of their efforts against a very strong Home United team.