Leading Singapore club Home United edged six-time Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown 4-3 in the first leg of their AFC Cup Playoff at the RSN Stadium yesterday evening. The second leg will be played at the Bishan Stadium in the city-state on February 7.
After an evenly contested first-half ended with a 2-1 advantage for United on the back of 24-year-old Faris Ramli’s rapid brace, the game took a bizarre turn midway in the second session before Crown lunged at their rivals late on to make the scoreline tight going into the away clash.
The most productive phase for Home United came just past the half-hour mark. A rough tackle by defender Suon Noeut on Izzdin Shafiq cost Crown a penalty.
Muhammad Faris bin Ramli neatly converted the spot kick and two minutes later he beat the advancing Crown keeper from the edge of the box. What was until then an even battle had tipped in the visitors’ favour.
However, two minutes into added time before the breather, Shane Booysen’s splendid cross was headed home by Futa Nakamura making up for his failure to score from a similar move earlier in the game.
The game took a decisive turn when an unfortunate mix-up between Crown goalkeeper Keo Soksela and defender Chiharu Kosuge on 68 minutes proved costly for the home side.
Soksela had done well to block Home United midfielder Stipe Plezibat’s attempt from the edge of the box but the ball ballooned over the goalkeeper, and although Chiharu was well placed to clear the ball away, he completely misjudged his attempted clearance.
With that fortuitous goal giving them a cushion, Home United looked set for a big win, but Crown were in no mood to relent.
Keo Sokgnon found the top corner of the net with a forceful drive off a measured pass from Shane Booysen on 81 to edge Crown closer to Home, who responded to the goal with one of their own from Izzdin Shafiq three minutes later.
With Crown looking at a tricky 4-2 away deficit, the Phnom Penh side rallied again, this time Shane Booysen rocking the Home goal with a powerful free kick deep in injury time to cut the difference to just one at the finish.
Reigning Metfone C League champions Boeung Ket Angkor FC are to take on Lao league runners-up Lao Toyota in the first leg of the AFC Cup playoff at 6pm at the Olympic Stadium today.
This will be Boeung Ket’s second tilt at an AFC event after their 2013 debut in the AFC President’s Cup.