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Match Review: Eagles Come from Behind to Thump Young Lions 4-2

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Geylang International climbed to the summit of the Singapore Premier League, albeit having played a game more, after mounting a comeback to beat Young Lions by four goals to two on Tuesday evening (February 28).

Trailling 2-1 early in the second half, the plucky Eagles turned the game on its head with a goal by Naufal Azman and a brace from Rio Sakuma.

That victory snapped the former league champions' five-game winless run in all competitions which stretched back to the draw against Albirex Niigata on the final day of the league campaign and was followed by three straight losses in the 2022 Singapore Cup group stage.

Geylang International entered the contest as the overwhelming favourites against the bottom team. But the torrential downpour resulting in a waterlogged pitch, gave the underdogs hope that the unpredictability of the terrain might work in their favour.

Indeed, Young Lions were quicker than their hosts to adapt to the rainy condition and they went ahead in the 7th minute, courtesy of a right-footed strike by ex-Eaglet Harith Kanadi.

With the field continuing to be soaked from the incessant shower, the Eagles struggled to string their short and diagonal passes together, disrupting the rhythm of play.

The fallen giants were thrown a lifeline by the referee when he awarded a penalty in the 23rd minute after judging Jared Gallagher to have brought down Yushi Yamaya in the box.

Yamaya, who took over the penalty duty from the departed Sime Zuzul, duly dispatched the ball from the spot to score his first goal for his new club.

But Geylang International could not build on the momentum as they faced stiff resistance from their younger rivals.

Seven minutes into the second half, the home team fell behind once more when opposing centre-back Aqil Yazid rose the highest to divert Harith's corner delivery into the net.

It was a blessing in disguise for Noor Ali's men to concede that goal as Joshua Pereira, who was culpable of handling the ball at the goalmouth, would have caused his team to play a man short had that goal not gone to the Cubs' favour.

Energised by the boisterous Ultras Eagles who braved the rain and chilly temperature to cheer on their beloved team, the Eagles started to hunt for goals against their youthful counterparts.

The fans' unwavering support was instantly rewarded, as Naufal Azman levelled the match for Geylang International four minutes later, thanks to a pinpoint cross from Yamaya.

It was then a Sakuma show at the Eagles Nest as the Japanese central defender exploited his opponents' setpiece vulnerability to score twice from close range.

As the mighty Eagles looked to be on course for a cruising victory, they met a speed bump in the 80th minute when the referee, upon consulting the video assistant referee, dished out a straight red at Akmal Azman for allegedly lashing out at Ilhan Noor during a challenge.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the two-goal lead was comfortably preserved, with Hafiz Ahmad not troubled in goal.

The Geylang camp hope to keep their good start to the season going and look forward to their home clash with fierce rivals Hougang United on Sunday.

Man of the match: Rio Sakuma - The imposing central defender, who last scored in a league game against Tanjong Pagar United on July 30 last year, was at the right place at the right time to pop in two goals for the Eagles. At the back, Sakuma did all he could in shoring up his shaky defence, limiting Young Lions to scoring only two goals that night.

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