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Match Review: Eagles Outclassed by Sailors in 3-0 Defeat

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

Geylang International's dogged fight against Lion City Sailors (LCS) did not receive its due reward, as the visiting team left Bishan Stadium empty-handed on Wednesday night.

Outshooting their opponents by 17 to 9 attempts, the Eagles could not find a way past Sailors goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad who was in inspired form that night.

After starting the season brightly with a three-match unbeaten run, a drubbing by the 2021 Singapore Premier League champions - which followed a loss to the Jaguars in the previous game - saw Geylang International tumble from second to fourth in the league table.

Heading into the midweek clash as the underdogs, the game started splendidly for the Eagles as they peppered shots at Zharfan's goal and prevented the Sailors attackers from creating goalscoring opportunities upfront.

The first scare of the night came when Ridwan Fikri, who stood in for the injured first-choice keeper Hafiz Ahmad, bundled LCS midfielder Adam Swandi in the box, giving the official no choice but to point to the spot.

But to the relief of the travelling Geylang International fans, fronted by the Ultras Eagles, the goalkeeping debutant guessed the right way and smothered Diego Lopes' spotkick.

As hopes were lifted among the away supporters that this could be the chance for their beloved team to upset the star-studded opponents, that optimism was quickly dashed when the Sailors drew first blood four minutes later in just their second shot of the match.

Lopes - unfazed by the earlier spotkick failure - charged towards the Eagles backline before slotting a ball down the left channel for his teammate, Hafiz Nor, who in turn rifled it past Ridwan.

Despite the setback, Geylang International did not let their heads down and continued to be menancing in attack for the remaining first half.

Unfortunately, there was no joy for the green-shirted players as they came up against a defiant Zharfan, who repelled every shot that came his way.

Any resistance from the Eagles was finally broken at the stroke of half-time when the ever-threatening Lopes was on hand to finish off Christopher van Huizen's cross.

Sensing weary legs and dampened spirits from the visitors, LCS head coach Risto Vidakovic brought on Shawal Anuar and Abdul Rasaq midway through the second half.

Those tactical changes worked a treat instantly for the Sailors via a counter-attacking move.

Receiving the ball from fellow substitute Abdul in the 70th minute, Shawal sprinted past a tired Geylang International backline and squared the ball to an onrushing Maxime Lestienne.

While the former Standard Liege man failed to hit his shot cleanly on the first attempt which saw the keeper blocking the ball, he was able to recover the rebound quickly and laid it onto the path of Abdul who scored with aplomb.

Two minutes later, the Eagles thought that they had averted a humiliating scoreline when Takahiro Tezuka diverted the ball into goal.

But it was a night to forget for the team from Tampines as the video assistant referee found the Japanese midfielder to be in an offside position and disallowed the goal.

Man of the match: Ultras Eagles - For the second time running, the passionate fans turned out in full force for another away game played on a weekday night. While the Geylang International players faded into anonymity as the match wore on, the hardcore supporter group continued to drum incessantly with their loud cheers, urging the players on to never lose faith till the final whistle. The long-suffering fans who last saw their team lift a silverware seven years ago, deserved better times.

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