Home United still fighting for S.League as Tampines concede to Albirex
Tampines Rovers may have given up on their title hopes after last Saturday's 4-0 thrashing at the hands of champions Albirex Niigata, but Home United have not thrown in the towel in their pursuit for a first S.League title since 2003.
The Protectors trail the relentless White Swans by a massive 13 points. But they can close the gap to just four points if they win their three games in hand.
Speaking to ESPN FC, coach Aidil Sharin is adamant that his side are still very much in the hunt.
"The season is not over until the very last game," the former Singapore international insited. "We're determined to collect maximum points from every game and we want to put up a good fight for the fans who have been supporting us."
Experienced defender Juma'at Jantan, who is into his 10th season with the club, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"We're left with two competitions -- the S.League and the Singapore Cup for this year," he said.
"All we got to do it to stay focused, take one game at a time and not look too far beyond. Our job is to get the three points, regroup and work towards the next game. I have the utmost belief in our boys that we will finish the season strongly."
Their comments are a huge contrast from the views of Tampines coach Jurgen Raab whose side were schooled by Albirex yet again over the weekend.
The Stags are 12 points off the pace, with two games in hand.
"Yes we must be honest [that it's over]," the German admitted. "If we win the two games in hand, it's still a six-point gap.
"We have no more chance in direct duels [against Albirex] to close the gap, so we must hope for other teams [to do the job]. In the remaining matches, it's better for us to focus on the battle for second place."
The S.League will now take a two-week break before resuming on Sep. 8, with Albirex facing cellar dwellers Garena Young Lions at Jalan Besar while Home play 2015 champions Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan.
The two sides will then face off in a crucial six-pointer at Bishan 11 days later, where Home are unbeaten in all competitions this season.
The sides will also meet in the two-legged Singapore Cup semis between Sep. 24 and 30.
Last season's quadruple winners Albirex have already swept the first two pieces of domestic silverware in 2017. They beat Tampines 2-1 in the Community Shield in February, and edged Warriors FC 1-0 in the League Cup final in July.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT