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Match Preview: Leaky Eagles Defence Need Urgent Fixes Ahead of Sailors Clash

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

The Geylang International defence were roundly lambasted by their supporters in the aftermath of their 3-3 draw against Brunei DPMM last Saturday (June 22).

With the away side on course for a 3-1 victory after the sending off of a DPMM player midway through the second half, calamity struck as the Eagles backline first conceded a penalty and then gifted a free header from an indirect freekick to allow the hosts to draw level in that game.

Disappointingly for the supporters, the third-placed Geylang missed the opportunity to return to the top of the Singapore Premier League, albeit for a day.

An even greater source of frustration is the fact that for the third time this season, the squad threw away a two-goal advantage and had to settle for a point.

"I call this the curse of a two-goal lead," highlights vocal Eagles fan Martini Abdul Talib. "Even when we were two-goal up, I'm sure the opponents were going to hit back with goals!"

Another supporter sounds an alarm on how further defensive lapses could derail the two-time league champions' campaign. "We have to address this issue soonest. Otherwise, we might be dropping more points," he shares with an urgency in his tone.

The backline, marshalled by skipper Joshua Pereira, have to reflect on their defensive shortcomings.

"There is a lack of leadership in defence during Rio Sakuma's absence, especially in the first few matches," explains an Ultras Eagles member on why his beloved team have not been able to keep a clean sheet all season.

Martini also weighs her thought on the individual mistakes in the defensive third. "Lack of communication on the pitch and giving away unnecessary fouls near the goal area are not helping their cause."

Of course, Eagles first-choice keeper Hairul Syirhan has not escaped the attention of Martini. "Hairul cannot just depend on the defence. Please be more agile and also be better in anticipating danger," pleads the goalie's well-intended critic.

Besides the individual mistakes committed by the players, diehard supporter Fabian Siew offers a tactical perspective to Geylang's poor defensive record, that is, the wingbacks' preference to push further upfield which left gaps at the back.

"Our wingbacks were too attacking minded. The problems arose during the transition from attack to defence where our wide players were not fast enough in tracking back."

With the battle against title heavyweights Lion City Sailors looming this Friday (June 28), it is all hands on deck for the defensive unit to stay compact and keep their line watertight.

The star-studded Sailors - stacked with several Lions players and foreigners with international pedigree - just swatted Albirex Niigata 7-1 and are firing on all cylinders at the moment.

Concentration and discipline for the Geylang backline would be the order of the day, as the formidable rivals are most likely to lay a relentless siege on their goal from the first whistle.

On Hairul's part - if he is not dropped for this tough fixture - Martini has some final words of advice for the 28-year-old custodian. "Keep your cool. Don't lash out at opponents. Don't risk being given yellow or red card. Play football the Geylang way!"

Team news: There are no injury issues in the defence and goalkeeping departments that would require head coach Noor Ali to make personnel changes in the defensive third. However, the Singaporean trainer may be tempted to field backup goalie Rudy Khairullah, who featured for Home United/Lion City Sailors from 2017 to 2022. Rudy's insider knowledge on his former club may be instrumental in shutting the Sailors out.

Also, Noor will be sweating on the fitness of Ryoya Taniguchi, who limped off with an injury during the previous match against Brunei DPMM. The Japanese attacking midfielder is badly needed to orchestrate the attack and keep the opposing defenders on their toes.

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