News Singapore Cup • July 25, 2018

Singapore Cup Preview: Tampines first obstacle in Home’s quest for seven


Hazzuwan Halim (no. 7) is a key part of Balestier’s game-plan.

SINGAPORE, 25 JULY 2018The 2018 RHB Singapore Cup kicks off this Friday, 27 July, with record six-time winners Home United FC taking on three-time champions Tampines Rovers FC at Jalan Besar Stadium in the first leg of their quarter-final tie. The match will kick off at 7.45pm.

BACKGROUND Albirex Niigata FC (S) may have won the Singapore Cup for the last three years, but they are just halfway there in terms of emulating Home United FC’s achievements in this tournament.

Home have lifted the majestic trophy six times (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2013), with their nearest challengers being Warriors FC, who won it four times.

With their trophy cabinet being barren for the past few years, the Protectors are yearning for another success in this competition and they are not afraid to show it.

An aggressive social media campaign with the hashtag #Backfor6lory was specially launched and has run for a number of weeks in the build-up to this Friday’s quarter-final first leg.

A lot has changed since Home’s last triumph five years ago – then-assistant coach Aidil Sharin is now at the helm, while reserve goalkeeper Eko Pradana Putra and South Korean attacker Song Ui-Young are the only survivors from that squad. Hafiz Nor was playing for Tanjong Pagar United in that final, but has since returned for his second stint at Home.

That is not to say Tampines are not dreaming of success in this competition as well, for the trophy has eluded them on four occasions since their third and last success in 2006. The Stags were losing finalists in 2007, 2010, 2012 and most recently in 2016.

Two years ago, they harboured hopes of upsetting Albirex in the final after thrashing the White Swans 5-1 in a league fixture three days prior.

However, an uncharacteristic Izwan Mahbud error allowed Atsushi Kawata to convert midway through the first half before Kento Nagasaki’s looping header sealed the triumph for the Japanese side.

Five players from that squad remain with the Stags, namely Irwan Shah, Hafiz Sujad, Yasir Hanapi, Jordan Webb and Captain Fahrudin Mustafic. Incredibly for Mustafic, he was also involved in the club’s first triumph back in 2002 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.

Juergen Raab’s side are undefeated in their last five encounters with Home and that bodes well for them as the Stags seek revenge for their 2011 Cup exit.

Paired in the competition’s quarter-finals that year, the two sides played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in the first leg at the old Tampines Stadium before holding each other 0-0 after 120 minutes in the second leg at Bishan Stadium.

It eventually went down to penalties, with misses from Akihiro Nakamura and Aleksandar Duric proving to be the difference as Home won 4-2 in the shootout and eventually went on to lift the trophy.

The big blow for Home is that the talismanic Song remains unavailable due to a niggling hamstring injury, while new Australian signing Isaka Cernak has yet to receive clearance from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to be registered with the squad.

The good news for them is that utility man Fazli Ayob is now fit for action after recovering from torn ankle ligaments.

As for Tampines, they will have a full squad to call upon – barring anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) victims Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman who are ruled out for the rest of the season.

Balestier: WDWDW
Albirex: LDLDW

08/07/18: Home 0-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
26/06/18: Tampines 1-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
18/11/17: Tampines 0-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
23/10/17: Home 0-2 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
12/05/17: Tampines 3-2 Home – Singapore Premier League

Shahril Ishak – Home
Pouncing on his own rebound, his superb footwork left Brunei DPMM FC goalkeeper Haimie Nyaring on his bottom before Shahril slotted home from close range to help his side to a shock 2-1 win away in Bandar Seri Begawan last Saturday.

With every passing game, the 34-year-old continues to prove why he is still one of the best in the business as he looks to add to his tally of 14 goals and 12 assists in all competitions.

Amirul Adli – Tampines
Not content with a superb run to the byline to set up Khairul Amri for the equaliser, Adli rounded off the evening with an electric late run to meet Zulfadhmi Suzliman’s back-flick and slot home his side’s final goal in the 4-1 thrashing of Geylang International FC over the weekend.

Deployed as a roving central midfielder, the 22-year-old has come of age this term and he will need to prove his worth again as he comes up against Home’s midfield general Izzdin Shafiq.

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