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 By Kenneth Tan

Hariss Harun gives Home United edge in AFC Cup final vs. Ceres-Negros

Singapore international midfielder Hariss Harun scored on his AFC Cup debut for Home United to inspire a 2-1 win over Philippines side Ceres-Negros in the first leg of the competition's ASEAN zonal final at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night.

Ceres captain Martin Steuble cancelled out Stipe Plazibat's early opener for Home. But the Protectors grabbed a late winner through Hariss in front of 3,024 fans to take a slender lead into the second leg in Bacolod City on Aug. 9.

Ceres dominated the early exchanges, but it was Home who broke the deadlock on 11 minutes.

After being fell in the box following a Izzdin Shafiq corner, Plazibat converted from 12 yards out for his eighth goal of the tournament, and 30th in all competitions in 2017.

The Protectors built on from there and could have doubled their advantage on two occasions.

On 21 minutes, Adam Swandi nodded onto the bar after Hariss had knocked on Izzdin's corner.

Three minutes later, Khairul Nizam took down Sirina Camara's diagonal ball before seeing his left-footed volley tipped wide by Ceres goalkeeper Roland Muller.

Hariss Harun for Home United v Albirex
Hariss Harun was making his AFC Cup debut for Home United, on-loan from Malaysia's JDT.

The pendulum then swung Ceres' way as they found the net twice, but both strikes were disallowed.

On 28 minutes, Kevin Ingreso's long-range free kick sailed all the way into goal but the effort was ruled out due to Carli de Murga's attempt to touch the ball in from an offside position.

Four minutes later, Fernando Rodriguez tapped home Iain Ramsey's cutback. However, their celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee's flag as the latter was adjudged to have strayed offside.

Home should have gone 2-0 up on 44 minutes but Plazibat somehow failed to make contact on Nizam's cross into the six-yard box.

They were made to rue that miss as Ceres would level matters with the last kick of the first half.

Steuble's speculative 35-yarder took a wicked bounce off the Jalan Besar turf before evading Home custodian Hassan Sunny.

Home returned for the second half with much more vigour and went close twice via Nizam's headers. The first came back off the left-hand post, while the other was tipped over by Muller.

At the other end, Hassan was also kept busy as he tipped over Ingreso's 30-yard free kick before producing a stunning reflex save to deny Bienvenido Maranon's header that got a deflection off Abdil Qaiyyim.

Faris then spurned an excellent chance to put Home back in the lead on 75 minutes as he miscued his volley from inside the area.

However, Aidil Sharin's side kept digging away and got their rewards nine minutes later.

Faris' free kick eluded everyone in the Ceres box before falling to Hariss at the far post. While the Singapore vice-captain's initial header was saved, he managed to tuck away the rebound to put his side 2-1 up.

Home could have finished the game with a two-goal advantage, but Nizam's fierce drive from inside the box five minutes into injury time was tipped over by Muller.

The game ended 2-1 in favour of the Protectors, but Ceres will need just a 1-0 win in the second leg to progress into the inter-zonal semifinals.

"All I can say now is that I'm very happy for the team," Home United coach Aidil Sharin said. "At 1-1 we kept fighting. The boys know that this is a chance not to be missed, not everyone in Singapore get to play in a final like this.

"I'm very happy for Hariss to score on his debut. I did a tactical change to switch him to midfield in the second half, and he contributed a goal."

Home United: Hassan Sunny (C), Juma'at Jantan, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Sirina Camara, Aqhari Abdullah (Abdil Qaiyyim 72'), Izzdin Shafiq (Haziq Azman 81'), Khairul Nizam, Faris Ramli, Adam Swandi (Amiruldin Asraf 64'), Stipe Plazibat

Ceres-Negros: Roland Muller (GK), Martin Steuble (C), Carli de Murga, Manuel Herrera, Jeffrey Christiaens, Stephan Schrock (OJ Porteria 83'), Manuel Ott, Kevin Ingreso, Iain Ramsay, Bienvenido Maranon (Omid Nazari 77'), Fernando Rodriguez

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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