Singapore Cup • July 1, 2014

Protectors Take Away Two-goal Advantage

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Written By: Kenneth Ho

Home United had to dig deep against Loyola Meralco Sparks FC on Monday evening as they emerged with a 2-0 win from the first leg of their RHB Singapore quarter finals encounter.

Qiu Li and Yasir Hanapi both found the net in the second half for the reigning Singapore Cup holders in an energy-sapping match.

Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng had opted to rest both Fazrul Nawaz and Bruno Castanheira as Qiu Li started up front, while being supported by free-roaming Lee Kwan Woo.

The move nearly paid dividends within two minutes of kick-off as the duo combined well to conjure the first chance of the match.

Lee found his way into the box and chipped in an exquisite pass for Qiu Li for the latter to have an attempt from point-blank range but Baba Sampana managed to parry his shot for a corner.

Two minutes later, the Sparks nearly opened the scoring when Song Inyoung’s mis-pass was pounced upon by Graham Cayhill, but Shahril Jantan sprinted off his line to smother the ball at the forward’s feet.

Lee and Qiu Li then worked together again to carve open the Sparks defence in the 11th minute but the South Korean could only divert his fierce drive over the bar.

From there, Home United begun to dominate possession but were frustrated by the resolute defending of Loyola. That led them to begin taking shots from distance as Sirina Camara saw his shot fly over before Yasir saw a similar effort going wide as well.

While Loyola were able to string together some passes at times, they were unable to pry past the centre-back pairing of Precious Emuejeraye and Song.

The Sparks did get a glimpse of goal in the first half after a scramble in the box, but Loyola centre-back Joaquin Canas Garcia headed over despite Shahril being seemingly stranded.

The half ended on level terms, but not before Lee saw his superb 25-yard free kick being tipped over by Sampana.

Coming out from the break, Loyola drew a stunning reaction save from Shahril as the Home custodian was forced to palm away a diving header by James Younghusband.

Recovering from that nervy moment, Home piled on the pressure and it told as Samuel Bonney nearly put the ball through his own net after trying to cut out Song’s header. Luckily for the visitors, Sampana was alert enough to make the save.

On the hour mark, Qiu Li managed to release Castanheira, who had came on as a substitute. and the latter managed to round Sampana, but his shot from an acute angle was saved by the goalkeeper who had rushed back to his lines in the nick of time.

However, Sampana turned from hero-to-villian instantly as he then contrived to misplace a pass to Lee and the Korean duly threaded a ball in for Qiu Li to slot home.

The advantage was doubled five minutes later as Yasir then volleyed in a first-time dipping effort from the edge of the box after receiving a cross from Camara.

Home could have scored a third in the 73rd minute when Castanheira sprinted free of the defence down the right and pulled one back for Fazrul Nawaz but the substitute fluffed his effort from close range.

The hosts saw out the game without any real danger, and the result leaves Loyola Meralco with a mountain to climb in the return leg of the quarter finals.