Match Review: Eagles Humble Sailors with Stunning Victory
Geylang International proved their recent red-hot form was no fluke as the visitors wrecked Lion City Sailors' title procession with a 3-1 win at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday (September 4).
Unfazed by a boisterous home crowd and an early Sailors goal, the unflappable Eagles rebounded strongly with three first-half strikes.
The upset against the league leaders has put the fourth-placed team in hot pursuit for continental football, with a ticket to the AFC Cup currently held by Tampines Rovers who are four points ahead in third.
The result has also blown the title race wide open as Lion City Sailors failed to pull clear from their nearest challengers, Albirex Niigata. Both sides are now locked on 51 points with the Sailors pipping on goal difference.
The title contenders, who were on the back of three landslide victories, seemed set for another cruising win when Belgian winger Maxime Lestienne slotted the ball into an empty net in the 8th minute.
But Geylang International refused to go along with that script, with Vincent Bezecourt writing himself into the history books as the main protaganist who brought the Singaporean giants on their knees.
Four minutes after conceding the first goal, the midfield maestro - receiving an Ahmad Syahir lay-off on the edge of the opposition box - created space for himself in a sea of Sailors defenders to squeeze in an equaliser.
A second shockwave then reverberated around the Jalan Besar Stadium in the 36th minute when the former New York Red Bulls man put the Eagles ahead after dashing to the six-yard box to sweep Ilhan Noor's cross into goal.
The Frenchman, who has been the heartbeat of the Geylang side since returning from his midseason break, rounded off his first-half show when his cross was deflected onto the path of Hazzuwan Halim, who then calmly lobbed the ball into the net from close range.
The travelling supporters, fronted by the Ultras Eagles, could be forgiven for celebrating the half-time lead as if the contest had been won. But for the players, they knew that the job was not done yet with 45 minutes of football to go.
Not contented to merely protect their two-goal advantage, Geylang International continued to harrass the Lion City Sailors backline early in the second half, with two hopeful chances from Bezecourt going wide.
At the other end of the pitch, Zaiful Nizam - like an alert eagle - had been clawing Sailors' goalbound efforts to safety on more than one occasion, much to the frustration of marquee striker Kim Shin-wook and Co.
The Eagles could have capped an impressive performance with a fourth goal late in the game, had Bezecourt and Ilhan not been denied by the upright and goalkeeper Hassan Sunny respectively.
With Geylang International passing their sternest test of the season with flying colours, the fallen giants - who won their last silverware in 2016 - look to end their campaign with a flourish and give their long-suffering fans something to cheer about.
Man of the match: Vincent Bezecourt - The star midfielder was unplayable in the titanic clash, delivering two goals and an assist to sink hot favourites Lion City Sailors. With European and American pedigree to his name, the 29-year-old put his experience to good use by making smart decisions on the pitch. Geylang International would look to the Frenchman for inspiration as they chase their dream of playing on the continental stage.