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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Home United boss Aidil Sharin says League Cup exit is 'blessing'

Home United coach Aidil Sharin
Coach Aidil Sharin says Home United will now focus on the S.League and AFC Cup.

Coach Aidil Sharin says that Home United's exit from the Singapore League Cup could be a blessing in disguise as they fight for honors in both the S.League and AFC Cup.

The Protectors finished bottom of Group A after losing 1-0 to holders Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night, with Tsubasa Sano's second-half goal prolonging their winless run to four matches.

The Singapore giants managed just one point from three games in the cup competition, and will not be involved in Tuesday's semifinals with Albirex, Warriors FC, Brunei DPMM and Geylang International the four teams remaining.

"Maybe it's a blessing in disguise [we're out]," Aidil said. "If we continue, it's going to be difficult. If we've qualifed, it's another three days before we play.

"We're a team with a lot of games, it's good for the players to recover with this exit. The boys gave everything and we can't fault them."

Aidil raised some eyebrows with his decision to begin the must-win game with Singapore international Faris Ramli on the bench. He also gave a start to young Croatian striker Marijan Suto, who was top scorer in the 2016 Prime League with 30 goals for Warriors FC.

"I gave Suto a chance to play because he needed match fitness. He's eligible for the AFC Cup and usually he doesn't get a chance in the S.League, this is platform for him to play," Aidil said.

"I rested Faris because it's a hard ground [at Jalan Besar] and we don't want more injuries. We're getting back on the right track with Aqhari [Abdullah] and Shamil [Sharif] back from injuries, that's where we need to manage well. 

"The main focus now is against Warriors on 25th July in the S.League. I cannot risk all key players, I have to give them time to recover."

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After a three-match winless run in the S.League, Albirex have bounced back to form to finish top of Group A in the League Cup -- one of four trophies they won in 2016.

"Three games in a short period, players are tired but showed great performance. I had confidence in my players to keep a clean sheet and I was not worried today," Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga said.

"It's a difference to have an extra day of rest [for the semifinals]. In Group A, we played against some tough opponents so it's an advantage for us in the semis."

Group B will conclude on Friday night with Brunei DPMM and Geylang International facing off to decide top spot ahead of Tuesday's semifinals.

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