A stoppage-time winner from Ken Ilso helped Home United defeat Hougang United 2-1 on Thursday night in the preliminary round of the 2016 RHB Singapore Cup and qualify for the quarter-finals.
After a goalless first-half, Azhar Sairudin fired the hosts ahead just after the break before Fumiya Kogure helped the visitors pull level with a stunning goal minutes later.
Just as the game looked like it was headed for extra time, Ilso popped up at the end of a Zulfahmi Arifin’s free-kick in the 93rd minute to send the Cheetahs crashing out of the competition.
The Protectors had made a bright start, pressing and harrying the visitors, and came close to breaking the deadlock just seven minutes into the game when Ilso’s piledriver from 25-yards out required Cheetahs custodian Khairulhin Khalid to dive low and push the ball out for a corner.
A good spell of pressure from the Cheetahs nearly paid off in the 16th minute when Kogure kept a loose ball alive at the byline and laid it off for Stipe Plazibat who was lurking just outside the 18-yard box.
However, the Croatian saw his curling shot at goal brilliantly turned away at the last minute by Protectors custodian Zulfairuz Rudy, whose view was blocked by a teammate.
Ilso wasted a glorious opportunity to put the Protectors ahead in the 35th minute when he could only shoot straight into the side-netting after Sirina Camara’s incisive pass had sent the Dane through on goal.
The Protectors replicated their start to the first half after the interval and found the breakthrough just three minutes into the second period when Azhar headed home Camara’s low cross from close range.
Hougang could have pulled level in the 51st minute when Delwinder Singh rose the highest to meet Kogure’s searching free-kick, but the defender’s header flew narrowly wide of the mark.
A moment of magic from Kogure seven minutes later restored parity for the Cheetahs when the Japanese’s strike from 25-yards out found the top corner of the net, leaving Zulfairuz with no chance.
Home could have retaken the lead in the 68th minute when Ilso shrugged off the attentions of a defender in the 18-yard box to meet Azhar’s lofted pass, but the Dane’s low shot at goal flashed narrowly wide of the far post.
The Cheetahs came close to pulling ahead themselves in the 83rd minute when Raihan Rahman attempted a first-time volley from Kaplan’s cross, but saw the ball whizzed narrowly wide of the post.
Home was unlucky to have not scored in a space of two minutes when Ilso’s free-kick came off the woodwork in the 88th minute, before Delwinder Singh made a goalline clearance by hacking away Khairul Nizam’s close-range shot two minutes later.
Ilso then headed home Zulfahmi’s free-kick at the far post minutes later to send the Protectors’ fans into ecstasy and seal the game for the hosts.
Report by: Shawn Lim
Photos by: Haiqal Tahir