Home United became the first Asean team to qualify for the zonal semi-final of 2017 AFC Cup after topping Group H with a 4-1 win over Myanmar's Yadanarbon FC at home on 18 April and coach Aidil Sharin says his team has enough firepower to reach the final of the continental tournament.
After losing their tournament opener to to the Myanmar National League champions, the Singapore giants garnered momentum with back-to-back wins over Vietnam's Thang Quang Ninh. On Tuesday, goals from Afiq Yunos, Faris Ramli, Irfan Fandi and Adam Swandi helped them seal another three points to take their tally to nine points from four games, an unassailable lead of five over nearest rivals Yadanarbon.
"We hope we can go into the final, so we will not disappoint the fans. The boys are working very hard in every game. And this win [against Yadanarbon] will surely bring up the atmosphere in the squad," Sharin told International Business Times Singapore.
The Singapore tactician also said the new format of AFC Cup is encouraging and that it is giving Asean teams good exposure. Notably, the 2017 edition of the tournament has nine groups in contrast to last year's eight. 36 teams, who made it to the group stages, have been split into five zones - West, Asean, South, East and Central - whereas 2016 had only two divisions - East and West.
For the first time in the tournament's history, zonal knockout stage matches will be played as intra-zonal semi-final in West and Asean zones and inter-zonal semi-final between the winner of Asean final and the winners of South, East and Central zones.
"I think the new format is very encouraging. It gives the teams a lot of competition and also exposure for SEA teams. It is good for the development of football," Sharin added.
Home not thinking about league title now
Apart from their AFC Cup success this season, the Protectors have remained unbeaten in the league season so far with three wins from four games. With Stipe Plazibat and Faris Ramli hitting peak form early in the season, Home are among the favourites to clinch the league title. However, the 39-year-old tactician has said that his team is not thinking about the title now but are motivated to stay hungry throughout the season.
"We had set a target at the start of the season. We are not thinking about winning the league just yet. We are taking a game at a time. It is important for us to stay hungry throughout the whole season to achieve good result," Sharin said.