Geylang International were eliminated from the 2023 Singapore Cup after suffering a 3-1 derby defeat to a 10-man Tampines Rovers on Saturday night (November 4).
Staying fourth on three points in Group A with a match against bottom side Young Lions to go, there is no chance for the Eagles to pip the Stags (6 pts) and the White Swans (4 pts) to the second qualifying spot, regardless of the outcome between the latter two teams in the final round.
Knowing a good performance would be required to stay in the competition, the 2009 Singapore Cup winners largely kept their more illustrious neighbours at bay for nearly the first half-hour of the match.
In fact, their opponents registered their first shot on target in the 29th minute when a strike from Saifullah Akbar was brilliantly cleared off the line by an alert Rio Sakuma.
However, the Eagles defence could do nothing to Saifullah's next effort five minutes later as the 24-year-old attacking midfielder drove in the opener with a fierce left-footed shot.
Geylang refused to throw in the towel just yet as they responded with an instant leveller via a Takahiro Tezuka bullet header.
With the Eastern derby evenly poised at half-time, there was a sense of optimism among the Eagles faithful that their team might extend their unbeaten run against their fierce rivals to four.
Unfortunately, it all went downhill for head coach Noor Ali and his charges in the second period.
Barely four minutes out of the dressing room, the designated away side went behind for the second time of the night when Milos Zlatkovic ghosted behind Joshua Pereira to divert a deep free-kick into the net.
There was no let up in Geylang's misery as Iqbal Hussain - the newly minted Fans' Player of the Season - had to be stretchered off in the 55th minute after picking up a knock. Shortly later, the Eagles' defensive frailties were exposed once more when their net was breached by a Joel Chew strike.
In an ill-tempered match which saw both teams collecting a number of yellow cards, referee Jansen Foo flashed his first red of the evening to Stags captain Yasir Hanapi for a nasty stamp on Pereira's chest.
But with 22 minutes remaining on the clock, Geylang could not make their numerical advantage count in wiping out the deficit with Yushi Yamaya culpable of missing clear-cut chances.
Disappointingly for the Eagles supporters, the second cup defeat on the trot leaves their team nothing to play for in their final group match against Young Lions.
Man of the match: Takahiro Tezuka - Amid the challenging circumstances against a strong opponent, the Japanese defensive midfielder posed a great deal of attacking threat by not only scoring the equalising goal for Geylang, but also put in penetrating passes for his forwards in the attacking third. Unfortunately for Tezuka, his team members let him down with their profligate finishing.