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Match Preview: Revitalised Hafiz Guarding No. 1 Spot

Photo credit: Geylang International FC

Caught out of position and twirled his way back to goal while Tanjong Pagar United took a quick throw-in and put the ball into an empty net. Stood rooted in daze when a savable shot from outside the box by Albirex Niigata flew past him.

Those were the iconic goalkeeping moments committed by Hafiz Ahmad in his string of shaky performances between the sticks this season that many Geylang International fans had felt let down with.

Despite putting in those odd reflex saves that wowed the crowd on sporadic occasions and earning the joint-top number of Man of the Match awards among his teammates (2), a majority of the Eagles faithful remain unconvinced that the 1.73m, portly custodian is the right choice in goal.

Immense pressure has been on Hafiz right from the start of this campaign when he had big boots to fill with the departure of veteran Zaiful Nizam, and was thrown in at the deep end as the club's No. 1 goalie.

Featuring in only 180 minutes of professional football before this year - with those two appearances being played during his debut season with Geylang in 2022 - inexperience in playing in the top flight counted against him when the league started in February.

For most of his career, the former Home United trainee was seated either on the Balestier Khalsa bench or appeared in lower league football with Project Vaults.

Hafiz's lack of experience was evident by those earlier mentioned howlers, which contributed to him conceding 29 goals in 15 matches.

When the midseason transfer window opened on June 1, a goalkeeping signing was on the top of head coach Noor Ali's mind and he eventually secured Rudy Khairullah on loan from Lion City Sailors.

Hit by the realisation that his No. 1 position would not be as safe as before, Hafiz upped his game in the past two fixtures against Balestier and Brunei DPMM, making vital saves that helped secure victories for his team.

Looking towards Sunday's Eastern derby against Tampines Rovers, the work is cut out for Hafiz in preventing his goal from being breached.

The injury-ravaged squad is further deciminated by loan ineligibility (Danish Irfan) and suspension (Gareth Low).

With a Stags side boasting the firepower of Boris Kopitovic and Faris Ramli, shots are expected to rain on the Eagles goal this weekend.

If Hafiz can perform superhuman feats and secure an unlikely draw or even a win, any question on his No. 1 spot is likely to be answered.

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