Home United booked their place in the RHB Singapore Cup final after beating Balestier Khalsa 1-0 on Monday to claim a 2-0 aggregate win in their semi-final clash.
Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium
Firdaus Idros scored the only goal of the game at the Jalan Besar Stadium when he tapped home on the rebound in the 67th minute to see off the determined challenge of their opponents, who played almost an hour with ten men after Ruhaizad Ismail was sent off in the 34th minute.
Having already won the Starhub League Cup earlier this season, Balestier were looking to take one step closer to a second piece of silverware but had plenty to do given they had been beaten 1-0 in Thursday’s first leg at the Toa Payoh Stadium.
And although they had a one-goal lead to sit back on, Home showed plenty of initiative early on in Monday’s return encounter and had their first chance in the 11th minute; Lee Kwan-woo trying his luck from the edge of the box that bounced awkwardly but was gathered with ease by Zaiful Nizam.
Eight minutes later, Lee combined with Song Ui-young to create a chance for Jordan Webb inside the box, but the Canadian was only able to send a meek effort straight at the opposition goalkeeper.
A minute later, Balestier threatened for the first time when Kim Min-ho threaded a lovely pass through to Ruhaizad, who looked odds on to test Shahril Jantan from ten yards until Ismail Yunos weighed in with a fine sliding block.
From the resultant corner, Qiu Li floated a deep ball to the far post and it was headed back by Park Kang-jin, but it was hacked clear before either Kim or Paul Cunningham could turn it goalwards.
Although they were starting to gain the upper hand, the Tigers were then dealt a real blow in the 34th minute when Ruhaizad, already on a yellow, wrestled Ismail Yunos to the ground and was harshly shown a second yellow, leaving his side having to play the remainder of the game with ten men.
With the numerical advantage, Home began to dominate the possession stakes and Zaiful had to be alert shortly before the break to keep them at bay; blocking a Sirina Camara freekick in the 41st minute, before reacting well to push away a low cross by Firdaus at his near post two minutes later.
Ten minutes into the second half, Balestier came extremely close to pulling level when another excellent corner delivery was met by Cunningham with a diving header, but the New Zealander was only able to steer the ball inches wide of the near post.
Four minutes after the hour mark, substitute Suria Prakash was next to threaten the Protectors goal when he latched onto an Obadin Aikhena flick-on and skipped past a challenge, only to drill his shot into the sidenetting.
But three minutes later, it was one of Home’s substitutes that helped them find the breakthrough as Hafiz Rahim broke free down the right and fired in a cross that was deflected. Although Zaiful reacted well to claw it away, he could only get it as far as Firdaus, who timed his run to perfection and emphatically fired the ball into the back of the net.
To Balestier’s credit, they refused to give in despite now needing two goals to force extra-time and had a good opening to pull one back in the 74th minute; Kim expertly bringing down Qiu’s left-wing cross before drilling a shot on the turn just wide.
As the game entered its closing stages, Tigers coach Darren Stewart threw both centre-backs – Cunningham and Obadin – forward in a last-ditch attempt to get a goal, and six minutes from time, the former was unlucky not to score after his towering header from Suria’s cross came smashing back off the post.
A minute later, they did have the ball in the back of the net when Obadin smashed home Park’s cut-back at the far post, but the strike was rightfully ruled out after the ball had crossed the line before the South Korean played it back into the box.
But Balestier’s increasingly adventurous ways did leave gaps at the back for the Protectors to exploit and they nearly did just that in the 88th minute; Song breaking free inside the area after a one-two with Webb and firing in a shot that was brilliantly saved by Zaiful.
Nonetheless, Home were able to play out the remainder of the game to claim a 2-0 aggregate victory and set up a final meeting with Tanjong Pagar United.
Home United: Shahril Jantan, Ismail Yunos (Hafiz Rahim 46’), Noh Rahman, Sirina Camara, Juma’at Jantan, Kwon Dak-yung, Song Ui-young, Firdaus Idros, Lee Kwan-woo (Syahiran Miswan 90’), Jordan Webb, Masrezwan Masturi (Sofiyan Abdul Hamid 89’).
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Poh Yi Feng (Ridwan Jamil 79’), Obadin Aikhena, Paul Cunningham, Hamqaamal Shah, Tengku Mushadad, Park Kang-jin, Patrick Paran (Suria Prakash 46’), Kim Min-ho (Ahmad Syahir 76’), Ruhaizad Ismail, Qiu Li.