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Match Review: Eagles and Cheetahs Fire Blanks in Stalemate

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Rivals Geylang International and Hougang United could not finish off their attacking moves as they grinded a goalless draw in a Singapore Premier League match at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday (May 22).

Both sets of players simply could not connect the final pass to the attackers, as long balls went over the top and out of play and through passes found their way to the keeper.

Adding to the vexation for both camps, extra touches from the forwards in the penalty boxes led to dispossession of ball by the defence.

The above contributed to Eagles top goalscorer Šime Žužul being deprived of quality services throughout the evening.

Fortunately, Vincent Bezecourt stepped in as Geylang International's biggest attacking threat. Just as he had registered the most shots in the previous fixture against Lion City Sailors, he did the same with four against Hougang United.

The French attacking midfielder produced the first real chance of the evening in the 14th minute. Receiving the ball from Ahmad Syahir inside the Eagles half, he ran almost half the field and unleashed the shot just outside the penalty box, drawing a one-handed save from Cheetahs backup goalkeeper Mukundan Maran.

Another chance for the men in green went begging in the 28th minute when Ilhan Noor's excellent cross from the right could not be connected by Hazzuwan Halim at the far post.

Soon after that lost opportunity, the home team almost suffered from a devastating counter-attack from the visitors.

With Hougang United midfielder Kristijan Krajcek pumping the ball from the left of the defensive line to find his Brazillian teammate Pedro Bortoluzo on the halfway line, Geylang International found themselves in a 2v3 situation.

After the 1.86m tall forward knocked the ball to former Eagles player Amy Recha and received it from a one-two pass, he surged towards Geylang International's left side of the penalty box. Fortunately, his fierce shot from distance was comfortably saved by Zaiful Nizam.

With wayward finishing and blocked shots continuing for the rest of the first half, neither teams were able to make a breakthrough as the half drew to a close.

The Cheetahs emerged for the second half with a defensive mindset, presenting an opportunity for the Eagles to dominate the opponents' half and pepper shots at their goal.

Geylang International's sustained pressure on Hougang United produced the former's best chance of the game. Ahmad, who was lively on the left flank throughout the match, whipped a cross which found the head of Takahiro Tezuka. But the 23-year-old Japanese's effort was headed straight into the gloves of Mukundan.

Amid the Eagles' dominance in the second half, it was easy for the players to fall into a false sense of security. This could prove fatal as the Cheetahs have the knack of scoring late goals.

In fact, a casual pass from Huzaifah Aziz to Abdil Qaiyyim around the middle of the pitch in the 82nd minute almost cost Geylang International the game. A quick thinking Bortoluzo pounced on the loose ball and raced towards Zaiful. To the relief of the home fans, the Brazilian shot past the right-hand post.

In the closing stages of the game, the Eagles with only a solitary league win, were desperate to score that elusive winning goal.

That glorious chance arrived deep into injury time when Bezecourt was bundled over by Muhaimin Suhaimi. However, the referee saw no issue with the challenge and waved off the penalty claim.

The goalless draw might have boosted the confidence of the Geylang International players as this result arrested a three-game losing run and improved their point tally to six.

But the team are well aware that goals are to be delivered if they wish to have a quicker ascent up the league table.

Man of the match: Ahmad Syahir - The left-back's forays up front were a joy to watch and had excited the Ultras Eagles. The new signing from Balestier Khalsa also made a couple of key passes to his teammates leading to good goalscoring opportunities.

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