Match Review: Eagles Left Dazed by Krajcek Sucker Punch
"They have a lot to prove and proving it at our expense would be what they want," warned a concerned Geylang fan in an Ultras Eagles Whatsapp group chat on the eve of the Hougang clash.
That ominous message proved foreboding as his beloved club slipped on a banana skin and fell 3-2 to a 10-man Cheetahs team at the Jalan Besar Stadium on a hot and humid Friday evening (May 12).
Faced with an out-of-sorts team who collected only four points from their nine games, many expected Geylang International to romp to an emphatic victory.
Such a thought was dashed just 28 seconds into the contest when Jordan Vestering drilled in the opener.
Playing under a 30 degree celsius tropical heat, the Eagles struggled to make inroads in the attacking third and hardly troubled opposing goalie Zaiful Nizam.
Out of the blue, Naufal Azman, who came on for the injured Huzaifah Aziz in the 9th minute, equalised for Geylang International at the stroke of half time with a thumping header from a setpiece routine.
With both sides unable to put their shots on target for much of the second half, the game only came to life in the last 10 minutes.
The drama-filled finale started when the video assistant referee was called upon to review a handball infringement by Rio Sakuma inside the box.
Groans were heard from the away stand when the match official pointed to the spot. Gabriel Quak who came on as a substitute minutes earlier, stepped up for his spot-kick duty and sent Hafiz the wrong way to make it 2-1.
A red card to Hazzuwan Halim in the 85th minute which reduced Hougang United to 10 men gave Geylang International a glimmer of hope of securing at least a draw from the match.
Super-sub Naufal thought he had rescued a point three minutes from time when he was at the receiving end of a Delwinder Singh cross to head into the net.
But it was the Cheetahs who had the last laugh deep in injury time. After some quick footwork by Quak down the left which turned his marker, Singh, inside out, the former then threaded a pass through a static Eagles defence to Kristijan Krajcek, who in turn curled the ball round Hafiz and into the far corner of the goal.
The last-gasp defeat to Hougang United damages Geylang International's aspiration for a top-three finish, as the Singaporean fallen giants remain stuck in fifth on 13 points, six behind third-placed Lion City Sailors who have a game in hand.
Man of the match: Naufal Azman - Standing at 1.75 metres, the first-half substitute managed to bag a brace with a pair of headers as he helped his team to level terms on two occasions. But similar to Yushi Yamaya in the previous match against Lion City Sailors, Naufal was also guilty of a couple of missed chances which if converted, could have ended the contest in Geylang International's favour.