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Match Review: Eagles Hang on to Derby Draw

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Hafiz Ahmad's superhuman goalkeeping in Sunday's Eastern Derby helped Geylang International clinch a 1-1 draw against cross-town rivals and title chasers Tampines Rovers.

Using his head, shoulder and right feet, the 1.73m custodian put his portly body on the line to repel wave after wave of Stags attack and kept his team in the game.

Despite earning a creditable draw against the five-time league champions to keep pace with fourth-placed Balestier Khalsa who are a point ahead, the Eagles' aspiration to qualify for Asia suffered a huge blow with Vincent Bezecourt picking up a potential season-ending injury during that match.

Shortly after scoring a 17th-minute equaliser to swiftly cancel out Boris Kopitovic's strike, Bezecourt experienced a tear in his knee area after colliding with Tampines midfielder Kyoga Nakamura.

Geylang's worst fear was immediately realised when he stayed on the ground while clutching his knee in pain before signalling to the bench that his game was over.

Without their French maestro orchestrating attacking play, the Eagles lost grip of the midfield and struggled to create chances in the last third.

Sensing the Eagles' vulnerability, pressure from the Stags was upped a few notches as they sought for a winner.

Back to the wall, Hafiz performed outrageous stunts to frustrate the opponents' efforts. Notable ones include rushing out of his box to head the ball away from Taufik Suparno's high boot challenge, and using his shoulder blade to deflect Faris Ramli's point-blank header.

The goalframe then came to his rescue in the 83rd minute as Nakamura's long-range strike crashed off the crossbar.

Kopitovic was presented with another late chance to wrap up three points for Tampines. To the relief of Geylang, his shot, like many of his wayward finishes that night, went off target.

Man of the match: Hafiz Ahmad - After coming under fire for his howlers earlier this season, the Geylang first-choice keeper finished the game that night with his reputation enhanced. On the back of those match-winning saves in the last two fixtures against Balestier Khalsa and Brunei DPMM, his acrobatic performance against Tampines was once more vital in preserving a point for his club. With a dearth of good young goalkeepers in the Singapore national team, Hafiz might well be in contention for a Lions call-up if he could keep up his improving performance.

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