Match Preview: Back to the Drawing Board for Noor Ahead of Eastern Derby
“We need to bounce back as quickly as possible. We need to start collecting points if we’re going to finish well by October,” vowed Geylang International head coach Noor Ali before the start of the second round of the Singapore Premier League on May 14.
Three games on and 14 days later, that promised revival was abruptly cut short when the Eagles crashed to an 8-2 defeat to Albirex Niigata.
For the second time this season, the club issued a social media statement appreciating the fans' support and endeavouring to do better for the forthcoming fixtures.
Geylang International's dismal season - being the elephant in the room - was discussed during the club's annual general meeting (AGM) held on June 2.
Addressing the ordinary members in attendance, the management committee shared that signing more players during the midseason transfer window would revive the club's fortunes.
At press time, the Eagles had added only one defender to the roster - Tajeli Salamat, a 28-year-old loanee from Lion City Sailors.
At the AGM, the board also gave their full backing to Noor, believing that he is their candidate to right the wrongs of Geylang International's season.
The club legend's following among fans also remains rock-solid, with some spotted wearing "Ultras Eagles Endorse Noor Ali" on matchdays.
With much faith entrusted on the 47-year-old Singaporean coach, there is a huge weight on his shoulders to get the team back to winning ways, beginning with the Eastern derby this Saturday (June 18) at Our Tampines Hub.
Joining him on the hotseat is his opposite number Gavin Lee, who is enduring a rough patch with Tampines Rovers.
Having started the season decently with 15 points from the first eight games, his team then suffered back-to-back losses against Lions City Sailors (4-0) and Tanjong Pagar United (4-2).
The magnitude of those defeats is surprising considering that the five-time league champions were given an outside chance by bookmakers to challenge for the title.
With both Eastern clubs seeking to arrest their respective winless runs, this sets the stage for a fiery derby at Our Tampines Hub.
Team news: Geylang International welcome back their captain Zaiful Nizam from national team duty. The third-choice national goalkeeper was an unused substitute for the three Asian Cup qualifying matches.
On the injury front, Fadli Kamis is the only major absentee as he is still recovering from the anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Player to watch: Tajeli Salamat - The right-back was loaned from Lion City Sailors to cover for long-term absentee Fadli Kamis. He is likely to be named on the first-team sheet for the weekend derby game.
The Sailors player was instrumental to his parent club's title charge last season and contributed one assist and three clean sheets in their domestic and continental competitions this season. However, he fell out of favour with his club after breaking team regulations during the club's recent participation in the Asian Champions League.
Having earned a "bad boy" reputation, his loan spell at Geylang International would be an opportunity for him to start anew and redeem himself as a professional.