Match Review: Bezecourt Powers Eagles to Comeback Victory over Cheetahs
Geylang International's Vincent Bezecourt ran into the embrace of the cheering Ultras Eagles to celebrate his second strike of the night against Hougang United, as the slight underdogs sealed a remarkable come-from-behind 2-1 win on Sunday (March 5).
His heroic act was reminiscent of his feat last July when he scored a brace against the Cheetahs to overturn a one-goal deficit for the Eagles.
The Geylang International fans have their French maestro to thank for, as their beloved team restore their pole position in the league with a one-point advantage over title contenders Lion City Sailors.
But for more than three quarters of the game, it had been a frustrating experience for the home supporters.
While the visitors dominated proceedings and peppered Hafiz Ahmad's goal with shots, the Tampines-based side struggled to threaten with their wing play and hardly put opposing goalie Zaiful Nizam under pressure.
Geylang International's circumstances were not helped by the reshuffling of the backline due to the suspension of Akmal Azman, which forced Noor Ali to hand 19-year-old debutant Haikal Sukri his professional debut.
Despite the academy player's best effort in guarding the left flank, Croat playmaker Kristijan Krajcek was granted the licence to roam freely and terrorise the defence.
In the 12th minute, Krajcek was found unmarked in the box as a parried ball from Hafiz landed on his feet. Fortunately for the Eagles, the Singapore Cup winner's first shot was charged down by the goalie while his follow-up attempt sailed over the bar.
The ever lively Krajcek had another go at the Geylang International defence and helped his side to an opener four minutes later.
His pinpoint cross from the right found his attacking teammate, Sahil Suhaimi, who finished the move by toe-poking the ball into the net from a rebound.
Rio Sakuma prevented his team from going further behind after the half-hour mark when he retreated and cleared Japanese compatriot Naoki Kuriyama's strike off the goal line, with Hafiz already well beaten.
Seeing Haikal running out of tank and the Eagles backline in sixes and sevens, head coach Noor Ali took the chance to put the youngster out of his misery in the 38th minute and shored up the left side of defence with a more experienced Huzaifah Aziz, whose midfield position was in turn occupied by substitute Azri Suhaili.
But there was no let up for Noor's defenders after the half-time break as the Hougang United wide players continued to harrass down the flanks.
Hafiz - who had been the busiest of the two keepers that night - came to the rescue twice in the first five minutes of the second half when he outstandingly repelled mercurial winger Gabriel Quak's double strikes.
Fed up with his charges' inability to make much progress in the attacking third, Noor threw on Shafiq Ghani and Gareth Low midway through the second interval in the hope of turning the game around.
That turned out to be a tactical masterstroke as the duo provided the services for Bezecourt's ensuing goal haul.
Low's searching cross from the right in the 72nd minute creeped its way to the far corner of the post where the Frenchman was on hand to tap in from close range.
With five minutes remaining on the clock, the former New York Red Bulls man latched onto Shafiq's defence-splitting pass and gleefully lashed in the winner past a hapless Zaiful.
Bezecourt's match winning goal brought Our Tampines Hub on its feet as the home fans jumped in joy over their heroes' comeback feat.
Man of the match: Hafiz Ahmad - While Vincent Bezecourt endeared himself to the Geylang International fans for his goal exploits, the 1.73m shot stopper also played an equally important - yet understated - role in the match. Faced with a total of seven shots on target by his opponents, his reflex ability had crucially kept the Eagles in the game. Particularly, his double saves against Gabriel Quak early in the second half set the stage for his teammates to mount a comeback.