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South Korea
 By Kenneth Tan

Faris Ramli says Home United will learn from Tampines Rovers' collapse

Faris Ramli for Home United in AFC Cup
Faris Ramli says he can't wait for August's AFC Cup zonal finals against Ceres-Negros.

Faris Ramli is keen to learn lessons from Tampines Rovers' 2016 collapse as Home United chase a possible treble of S.League, Singapore Cup and AFC Cup trophies.

A year ago, Tampines were in contention to win the three competitions, but failed to collect any silverware due to a late-season slump.

The Stags eventually finished a point behind Albirex Niigata (S) to settle for second in the S.League. They lost 2-0 to the same opponents in the 2016 Singapore Cup final and were edged out 1-0 by Indian side Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup quarterfinals.

"We don't want to make the same mistake as Tampines did," the 24-year-old told ESPN FC at the Singapore United Football Fiesta, which was held at the Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) over the weekend.

Happy Birthday SUPERDAD! 🎈🎉 . Hope to be like you one day. 💞

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"Last year they were in a similar position and it was unfortunate for them not to win anything. So, we're trying not to think too far ahead for now, it's important that we put our heads down and take it game by game.

"With leaders like Hassan [Sunny], Hariss [Harun], Juma'at [Jantan] who can speak out to the team, hopefully we will not repeat the same mistake."

August is a huge month for the Protectors as they take on Philippines outfit Ceres-Negros in the two-legged AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final, before facing Brunei DPMM in the two-legged Singapore Cup quarterfinals.

Aidil Sharin's side has exceeded all expectations in their thrilling run to the AFC Cup zonal final, with Faris confident that they can complete the job against a physically strong, and technically adept Ceres side.

"I've watched some of their games like the [3-2 win] against JDT [Johor Darul Ta'zim] in the group stages and against Hougang United [1-0 loss] in the Singapore Cup," the Singapore winger added.

"Definitely they're a strong team and they deserve their spot in the final. But we'll try not to worry so much about them, instead let them worry about us.

"It's been an exciting run for us. Our main goal at the start of the season was just to go as far as possible, but everyone gelled together well and worked their socks off. It showed how much we have grown and matured as a team, now we just have to put our heads down and keep proving people wrong."

While he and Croatian forward Stipe Plazibat have been earning the plaudits with 11 goals, 16 assists and 29 goals, 8 assists respectively, Faris believes there is more to Home than just the two of them.

"People have been talking about me and Stipe because we're scoring and setting up goals, but I have to give credit to the whole team," he stressed. "The rest of them worked hard to play our brand of football, me and Stipe are just there to complete the team."

While Home have won just one out of their last five matches, and suffered an early group-stage exit in the Singapore League Cup, Faris does not believe that should set alarm bells ringing.

"The coaches have a different perspective of the League Cup by trying out some Prime League players," he explained. "Also, you can see some of the players are really tired and some picked up injuries, including myself who has a tight hamstring.

"Not progressing far in the League Cup gives us some good rest before we play Warriors FC [on July 25] and Ceres [on Aug. 2 and 9]. Hopefully we get back to shape soon and resume our good run."

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT



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