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Match Review: Eagles Fail to Make Chances Count in Derby Defeat

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Geylang International's profligacy in front of goal proved costly as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to neighbours Tampines Rovers in a Singapore Premier League game on Saturday evening (June 18).

In a derby where the Eagles had eight shots on target to the Stags' three, it was the latter who netted the goals via Yasir Hanapi and Boris Kopitovic in either side of the half.

The green half of Tampines rued those missed chances made during the early exchanges of the game.

The attacking trident of Šime Žužul, Vincent Bezecourt and Hazzuwan Halim were able to produce good shooting chances from the right side of the penalty box within the first 21 minutes. However, their efforts on goal were thwarted by the smart saves of Tampines Rovers goalie Syazwan Buhari.

Yasir - an ex-Geylang International player who came on for the injured Ong Yu En - showed his opposite numbers what clinical finishing looked like with the team's first attempt on goal in the 33rd minute.

Anticipating his rampaging Serbian teammate Zehrudin Mehmedović to cross from the left flank, the former Eaglet surged into the box and evaded the Eagles defenders. When the cross did come to him at the far post, the 32-year-old volleyed it sweetly with his right foot past Zaiful Nizam.

Trialling at half-time, under-fire Geylang International manager Noor Ali took out Khairul Hairie for Ahmad Syahir and switched from a four- to five-man defence. This tactical switch pushed debutant Tajeli Salamat to a more advanced right wing-back role.

The tweak in formation unleashed Tajeli's attacking threat on the right flank. The Lion City Sailors loanee was able to roam upfield and whipped in crosses on numerous occasions. But those efforts were in vain as none of his teammates was on the receiving end of the crosses.

The right back had put in a tireless shift throughout the second half and almost rewarded himself with a dream debut goal.

In the 62nd minute, Žužul made an attacking foray on the left side of the field. After spinning from his marker, he crossed the ball low towards Bezecourt who was rushing into the 12-yard box. But the Frenchman slipped and could not made contact with the ball.

The ball then found its way to the feet of Tajeli who struck it first time with the right foot. Unfortunately, the goal-bound effort was deflected off the thigh of Stags defender Adam Reefdy and whizzed past the right post of the goalframe.

The game was then put to bed in the 84th minute when Tampines Rovers scored the second goal of the night through their marksman Kopitovic.

But the goal was overshadowed by possibly the most convincing play-acting in the Singapore Premier League history.

A minute before, Huzaifah Aziz made a late challenge on former Eagles midfielder Christopher Van Huizen, stepping on the latter's ankle in the process. This resulted in Huzaifah receiving his second yellow card and being given the marching orders by referee Jensen Foo.

With Van Huizen continuing to lie motionlessly from a suspected concussion, the referee immediately signalled for medics from both clubs to attend to him. The stretcher bearers were also called into action shortly after.

The player was then gingerly brought to the sideline without the aid of the stretcher to receive further medical examination. There were concerned faces from the stands for the one-time Geylang International player.

What ensued was a miracle in sports medicine. Van Huizen who had seemingly recovered, soon called for the referee's attention to return to the pitch and was given the green light.

Spotting a loose header from Rio Sakuma, the Tampines Rovers winger sprinted and gained possession of the ball. He then made a side pass to Kopitovic who rifled the ball into goal.

As a final act, Van Huizen wheeled away and joined his teammates and the coaching staff in the goal celebration. His former comrades in the green half of Tampines could only looked on glumly, as the defeat means they remain stuck second from bottom in the league with a measly six points.

Man of the match: Tajeli Salamat - In a pre-match interview, the Lion City Sailors loanee promised to aid the Eagles' cause and he did just that in his debut. He ran tirelessly on the right flank and pumped in numerous crosses to his teammates. Unfortunately, his teammates could not get onto the receiving end of those crosses. The right-back understandably frustrated at those missed opportunities, would require a collective team effort to bring in goals and points for the Eagles.

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