Match Preview: Zaiful Keeps Eagles in Hunt for AFC Cup Spot


Photo credit: Robbie Oca

Geylang International's six-match unbeaten run - four wins and two draws in that sequence - has brought the mid-table club into contention of AFC Cup qualification, with the spot currently held by their next opponents Tanjong Pagar United who are nine points ahead.


That streak also saw the Eagles tighten up their backline, with the team not conceding for three consecutive games at one point. This contributed to the side having the third-meanest defence in the league - only title contenders Lion City Sailors and Albirex Niigata have let in fewer goals.


Geylang International goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam had played a huge role in the team's improved defensive showing in recent matches.


The veteran custodian, who turned 35 last Sunday, not only collected three straight clean sheets during the Eagles' unbeaten run, but he also prevented the team from falling behind in the last two fixtures against Lion City Sailors and Hougang United when those games were hanging in the balance.


The skipper's heroics in goal provided the platform for his teammates to secure those precious points, which has kept alive Geylang International's flickering hope of qualifying for Asia's second-tier club competition.


Zaiful, who has been one of Eagles' consistent performers this season, would have to maintain his fine goalkeeping form against the third-placed Jaguars this Saturday (July 30).


One opposing forward which the Eagles stopper has to keep a watchful eye on is Reo Nishiguchi.


The 24-year-old Japanese is the league's third-highest goalscorer, having plundered 16 goals this campaign while blanking in only five out of the 17 games played.


Zaiful can take heart that one of those five games was against Geylang International in a home encounter earlier this year with the hosts emerging as 1-0 victors.


Another shutout against the Jaguars would earn Zaiful his sixth of the season, putting him on level with Sailors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny who has the most number of clean sheets this term.


The Golden Glove is within Zaiful's grasp.


Team news: Fadli Kamis remains out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.


Fareez Farhan's match fitness has been called into question in recent weeks and there is no indication when he will feature in a green shirt again.

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