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Match Preview: The Sky's the Limit for Soaring Eagles

Photo credit: Geylang International FC

It was a football match experience to remember for Geylang International fan Remus Liew as he watched his beloved team admirably hold a star-studded Lion City Sailors side to a 1-1 draw at Jalan Besar Stadium on June 28.

Roared on by the boisterous Ultras Eagles with their rhythmic drumming and strong vocals, the green-shirted players showed plenty of hearts and guts in having a go at their much-favoured opponents.

"The match atmosphere was rocking, and it's always nice to see a crowded JBS," recalls Remus fondly.

The Eagles fan is contented to take a point, considering how his team experienced contrasting halves in that blockbuster fixture.

"In the first half, Geylang played some sublime football, defended well and kept LCS at bay. In the second half, lethargy and lack of concentration surfaced which played a part in us conceding the equaliser."

For capo Terence Yip who kept the cheers going that night, he rues the Eagles' decision in opting for a more defensive shape especially towards the end of the match, thus reducing their chances of grabbing a winner.

"While a draw is a decent result, we could have won the game if the team had attacked more," says the 20-year-old supporter with a tinge of regret.

Nevertheless, this hard-earned point has ignited a newfound belief in the fallen Singaporean giants and their long-suffering faithful, who last witnessed the lifting of a silverware during the successful 2016 League Plate run.

"We have a squad that can go head-to-head with any Singapore Premier League club. May our unbeaten run continue when we face Albirex Niigata at Jurong East Stadium this Saturday," declares UE chief Idi Bakhtiar confidently.

Indeed, the Japanese satellite team - who have won multiple trophies and are the reigning league champions - have been a pale shadow of their former selves this season.

After rebranding themselves as a "local club" for the new campaign with the adding of more Singaporean players into their ranks and the downsizing of their Japanese contingent to six, the White Swans lost four out of their five matches, including a shock 3-2 upset by Young Lions and a humiliating 7-1 defeat to LCS. Currently, they languish second from bottom of the nine-team SPL table.

Despite the woeful form of their upcoming opponents, Eagles fans caution that their squad cannot let their guards down against the six-time league winners, who are led by 2023 SPL Coach of the Year Kazuaki Yoshinaga.

As Remus observes, "Despite the localisation of Albirex which was bound to lower their playing standards, I wasn't expecting their results to be so bad as it currently is. Then again, they still have got good players and we should not underestimate them."

Similarly, fellow supporter Terence also urges his favourite team on not being overconfident in their clash with Albirex. "While I would like to see Geylang to be more aggressive in attack, our leaky defence has to be extra vigilant in preventing the opposing attackers from threatening our goal. One small lapse in concentration may turn costly as often proved this season."

The loyal supporter - who once witnessed Geylang's 2009 Singapore Cup triumph at Jalan Besar Stadium as a young boy - has high hopes for the storied club. "We have to win big, hopefully with a clean sheet, if we want to finish in the top-three at the end of the season."

Team news: Head coach Noor Ali may have found a settled XI for his unbeaten side, and is likely to field the same crop of players that appeared in the commendable 1-1 draw against LCS.

Player to watch: Tomoyuki Doi - The Japanese ace striker, who currently tops the league's goalscoring charts, failed to find the net for the first time this season in the previous fixture against the Sailors. Well-marked by the opposing defence, Doi had few touches of the ball and cut a frustrating figure up front. It is certain that he would unleash his goalscoring prowess when facing his former club this weekend.

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