With Singapore and Philippines both in Group B of this year's AFF Suzuki Cup, the ASEAN Zonal Final of the 2018 AFC Cup is of particular interest to Southeast Asian football fans.

In a repeat of last year's Zonal final, S.League side Home United are matched up against Filipino club Ceres Negros and the first encounter at Panaad Park and Stadium on Wednesday left all to play for on August 8 - as we wait to see who will be crowned ASEAN club kings.

After a bright opening by Ceres in front of their home fans, Patrick Reichelt played in Blake Powell, who was handed a penalty in the ninth minute after being taken down in the box by Shakir Hamzah.

Australian striker Powell made no mistake from the spot as he slotted the ball past Home United goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah to give the hosts an early lead and send the Panaad Stadium crowd into raptures.

But just as Mike Ott went close to doubling Ceres’ lead shortly after, Home United‘s immediate counter-attack lead to the equaliser and a crucial away goal on 23 minutes.

Izzdin Shafiq’s in-swinging corner found Shahril, who managed to escape his marker at the near post to head over Toni Doblas and into the roof of the net to level proceedings in the Philippines.

The end-to-end nature of the first half continued right up until the whistle when Manuel Ott’s indirect free kick in the first minute of stoppage time sailed over Khairullah in goal as both sides remained deadlocked going into the break.

The home side made a double change at halftime, bring Jeffrey Christiaens and Curt Dizon and it nearly paid off immediately as Mike Ott’s close-range shot from a corner was somehow kept out just five minutes into the second half.

After a period of early second-half dominance by the home team, Faritz Hameed stung the palms of Doblas with a long-range strike as the veteran keeper was forced to tip the ball around the post to keep his side level.

And it ultimately proved to be the closest Home United came in the second half as Risto Vidakovic’s side continued to dominate possession but were unable to find a winner, with the tie ending in a stalemate.

Ceres Negros travel to Home United’s Jalan Besar Stadium next week for the second leg, with the winner to be crowned ASEAN Zonal champions and set to face DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC in the Inter-Zone semi-finals on August 21.

Photos: Lagardere Sports