Coming into the game without a win to their name this season (barring a penalty shootout victory over Albirex Niigata) Home United were in dire straits. The reigning AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal champions were seriously underwhelming, and having scored just two goals in the league and Asia this season whilst conceding a whopping 12, the Protectors needed a result here to get their season back on track. Australia U19 international Oliver Puflett, brought in from Western Sydney Wanderers just last week, was tasked with providing the firepower up top Home had lacked since Song Ui-young's injury.
Warriors meanwhile weren't doing so well themselves. Sitting rock bottom of the league, the Warriors were coming off the back of a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Hougang United. Admittedly, they did have 2 games in hand on most of the teams above them, having kicked off their Singapore Premier League campaign two weeks later than everyone else, but the signs didn't look promising for them, as a couple of defensive catastrophes and a lack of attacking nous cost them dearly last time out.
Disappointing first half followed by second half onslaught
With neither side really getting a hold on the game in the opening 45 minutes, the teams went into the dressing rooms at halftime goalless, with the Warriors arguably looking the likelier of the two to open the scoring. However, that all changed in the second period, as Saswadimata Dasuki's Protectors came out firing on all cylinders.
After a couple of half chances went begging for Home, they finally made Warriors pay, just six minutes after the restart. New signing Oliver Puflett broke free down the left hand side and fizzed a rasping shot at Warriors goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan. The effort proved too hot to handle for the former Albirex custodian, who spilled it into the path of the onrushing Hami Syahin, who rifled the rebound into the top corner.
A second arrived exactly 20 minutes later. After some stellar buildup play involving Isaka Cernak, Adam Swandi and Iqram Rifqi, the ball was whipped into the returning Song, fresh off the bench making his first appearance in over a month. The South Korean took one touch and smashed the second beyond Shahul and into the roof of the net. Out came his iconic celebration, and Home were on their way.
There was even time at the end for a debut goal. With seemingly nothing on for him, Home skipper Izzdin Shafiq dinked an excellent through ball over the Warriors defense and into Oliver Puflett, who made no mistake, beating Shahul Rayyan with an exquisite lob. Game, set and match.
Chance for Home to build
Having started the season so poorly, this game could prove to be the spark that reignites the Protectors' campaign. In what was a complete performance full of attacking verve and midfield creativity, Saswa will be encouraged by the display his side put on away from home against an old rival. With Lao Toyota next up in the AFC Cup, Home will look to continue in this vein as they seek to get their Asian campaign back on track.
With Song Ui-young returning to full fitness and goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah nearing a return, things could start to look up for Home, as key players return to the side at a crucial part of the season. It remains to be seen how the players react following this victory, but the signs are good for the Protectors.
Warriors need to dust themselves down
Losing your opening two games 5-1 and 0-3 is hardly ideal, but to be fair to the Warriors, they have come up against title favourites Hougang and a Home side desperate to set things right. With Geylang International next up, the clash at Our Tampines Hub is already gearing up as a must-win for both sides, with the Eagles too coming off the back of a disappointing 3-0 loss to Balestier Khalsa.
Having a number of quality attackers, including Singapore international Gabriel Quak and Jonathan Behe, it seems only a matter of time before Warriors start firing again. For coach Azlan Alipah, however, it better come sooner rather than later.