Match Review: Eagles Maul by Young Lions 4-1 in the Battle of the Cellar Dwellers
The Geylang International fans witnessed a horror show by their team, as they were routed by basement club Young Lions 4-1 in a Singapore Premier League match on Saturday evening (April 16).
The Eagles badly needed the win against the bottom side team to snap their five-game winless run and bring their poor start to the season back on track.
The listless performance in the previous 1-0 defeat to Balestier was thought by many Geylang International supporters to be a one-off, as the players were evenly-matched with their opponents in the earlier matches and displayed fighting spirit to grind results.
The fans - whose support has never wavered - genuinely believed that the players would turn up on the pitch against Young Lions with full-blooded commitment and tip-top fitness to win every ball.
But to the disappointment of those watching at the Jalan Besar Stadium or on the live broadcast, the Eagles were chasing shadows from the first whistle as Young Lions quickly bossed the midfield and created goalscoring opportunities for themselves.
With Geylang International unable to stamp their authority in the game, they soon found themselves falling behind in the 7th minute at the hands of a former Eaglet.
Zikos Chua showed his former employers the talents they were sorely missing that night. A cross from the left by Khairin Nadim found Chua in the six-yard box, and the poacher elevated the ball past Zaiful Nizam into goal from close range.
A second shockwave then reverberated around Jalan Besar Stadium when the Young Lions doubled their lead in the 21st minute.
A corner routine from Geylang International turned into a successful counter-attacking move by Young Lions. The Eagles' left flank was exposed which Ryhan Stewart took the opportunity to surge forward with the ball. Spotting Zaiful way off his line, Ryhan unleashed an audacious long-range shot into the empty net.
The half-time whistle came as a relief to the Eagles as this would be the opportunity to regroup and stage a comeback.
However, the second half brought no improvement in play from Geylang International as their frontline fired blank for a large part of the second half (the first shot attempt of the half was by substitute Danish Siregar in the 78th minute).
In contrast, the Young Lions were hungry for more goals and were out to exploit the Eagles' defensive fragilities.
With Geylang International missing first-team defenders like Faizal Roslan and Abdil Qaiyyim through suspension and injury respectively, the 17-year-old Kieran Teo was handed his first start of the season. While trying his best to deputise for his missing seniors, Teo was thrown into the deep end of professional football and could not handle the intensity of the game.
Young Lions gleefully exploited the inexperienced Teo in the lead-up to their third goal in the 57th minute. After intercepting Young Lions keeper Ridhwan Fikri's long punt on the Eagles' left flank, Teo's weak back-pass to Zaiful was pounced by a lurking Chua. Chua laid the ball to Stewart who obligingly scored his second goal of the game.
With the game dead and buried by then, Geylang International were handed a lifeline to reduce the deficit in the 71st minute when the referee awarded a penalty to the team. Šime Žužul duly dispatched the spot kick to score his fourth goal of the campaign.
But this was scant consolation for the Eagles supporters in attendance as Young Lions restored their three-goal lead via an own goal in the 83rd minute. A free-kick from Joel Chew was unfortunately turned in by the back of Qayyum Raishyan.
It is worth re-posting the question: Will Geylang International win again in the 2022 season? As the team go for their 28-day season break, one would expect deep soul searching from the management and players on their performances in the first round of games. One hopes that there will be an answer to that aforementioned question when Noor Ali and his charges return for their next fixture against Lion City Sailors on May 14.
Man of the match: Ultras Eagles - Win, lose or draw, the die-hard supporter group have always turned up in full force for the team over the seasons. Armed with drums and supported by strong vocals on the stands, their expectations for the team in every match are simple: commitment and passion from the players. Showing neither is not being respectful to the fans who have invested their time and money in following the team. Those who were in attendance at Jalan Besar Stadium or watching the live broadcast that night deserve better for their unwavering support towards the team.