Geylang International posted a stunning 1-0 win over Lion City Sailors in their Singapore Premier League season opener on Friday night (March 4).
With the Sailors touted as comfortable favourites by pundits and observers alike, the most ardent Eagles supporters hoped that the team would not suffer a drubbing like the previous 14 encounters.
But the Geylang International players defied the seemingly insurmountable odds and presented the Eagles fans with a magical gift by scoring the first goal in the 10th minute. A mix-up between Harris Harun and Adam Swandi allowed Šime Žužul to dispossess the ball from them. Vincent Bezecourt then picked up the ball from outside the box and unleashed it past a diving Izwan Mahbud.
The Eagles was then handed a numerical advantage when Sailors defender Pedro Henrique was given the marching orders in the 34th minute. A surging run from Šime Žužul towards goal was abruptly halted when Henrique bundled Žužul outside the penalty area. For denying a goal scoring chance, the referee did not hesitate in dishing a red card from his pocket. Henrique trudged off the pitch with the Eagles supporters gleefully waving goodbye to him.
Desperate to avoid a humbling defeat in the hands of the underdogs, Lion City Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon threw on the big guns like Kim Shin-wook, Diego Lopes, and Maxime Lestienne in the second half. The Geylang defence stood resolute to withstand the barrage of shots from the opposition's forward line. Also, the Eagles goalie Zaiful Nizam's commanding performance ensured that the clean sheet remained intact, particularly his save from a shot by Lopes in the 65th minute.
When the referee blew the full-time whistle, the decibels around Our Tampines Hub were raised with the Geylang International players and supporters celebrating in jubilation. It is a hard-earned three points for the Eagles with the fans applauding the new-look team for its gritty display. Confidence and belief in the Geylang camp are high as they look forward to their next assignment away at Hougang on March 11.
Man of the Match: Šime Žužul - Although Vincent Bezecourt had the limelight for scoring the winning goal, Žužul was the unsung hero of the night. His physical presence, hold-up play and off-the-ball-running were a constant menace for the Sailors defence. His influential performance has endeared himself to the Eagles fans.