SINGAPORE – Out on the hunt for glory at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup tournament, Home United got their campaign off to a positive start on Tuesday (May 16) night, as the Protectors notched a 2-2 draw against Filipino side Global FC in the first-leg of their semi-final contest at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 2-1 and having seen their opponents go down to ten men with 15 minutes left, Home United could have chosen to play it safe and sat back on their away goal against the hosts.
Instead, head coach Aidil Sharin threw on the two remaining strikers on his bench, ordered his team to pile on the pressure, and was richly rewarded with a dramatic equaliser.
With the last touch of the game, Stipe Plazibat headed in a corner to salvage a 2-2 draw, giving Home two precious away goals ahead of the return leg at Jalan Besar Stadium in two weeks’ time.
Missing four starters due to injury and suspension, and with Plazibat himself starting on the bench - he had missed the last two games due to a calf injury - the Protectors found themselves on the back foot against their opponents.
While Shu Sasaki’s goal on ten minutes was disallowed for offside, Global took the lead just five minutes later courtesy of Darryl Roberts’ calm finish off Hikaru Minegishi’s lofted through ball.
The Filipino side were dominant in the first half, and only Hassan Sunny stood in the way of them doubling their lead in the 27th minute, as the Home custodian brilliantly tipped Roberts’ curling effort.
The Protectors then caught Global cold from a quick throw in the 33rd minute as Sufianto Salleh picked out Faris Ramli, who turned his man on the left byline before setting up Adam Swandi for an easy tap-in.
It was the youngster’s third goal of the season and a sucker punch for the home side as they finished the half on level terms despite being the better side.
However, Global recovered quickly and regained the lead seven minutes after the break. Minegishi proved to be a thorn in Home’s side again as his touch off a corner set up Amani Aguinaldo, who was inexplicably left unmarked to sweep the ball in from close range.
That prompted the immediate introduction of Plazibat, Home’s top scorer for the season.
But it was Aguinaldo’s dismissal on 75 minutes that turned the tide. The 22-year-old defender’s poor challenge on Plazibat earned him a second yellow, ending his night early and putting his team under the cosh.
Aidil wasted no time in bringing on Marijan Suto and Khairul Nizam to join Plazibat in attack as Home threw everything at Global, forcing goalkeeper Patrick Deyto into a couple of saves.
They were nearly caught out at the other end on the break by Global, but Hassan proved his worth by tipping Minegishi’s deflected effort onto the bar, before Misagh Bahadoran’s tame shot failed to find the mark.
But it was Plazibat who made it count in the end. Rising highest to meet Song Ui-young’s corner at the near post, the Croatian headed in his 18th goal of the season in added time to send the Home bench erupting in delight, as their opponents sunk to their knees in despair.
“It’s a very good result,” noted Plazibat after the game. “Without plenty of key players, we came here (and did the job). I can only congratulate my team because we gave a very good fight.”