Geylang International are on a roll as they leapfrogged Balestier Khalsa and climbed to sixth spot, after defeating their opponents 2-0 in a Singapore Premier League game on Saturday (July 2).
Two second-half goals from former Tigers Sime Zuzul and Hazzuwan Halim at the Toa Payoh Stadium aided the Eagles to a second consecutive win. Also a second clean sheet on the trot was earned thanks to a solid defence coupled with good goalkeeping.
With Balestier Khalsa heading into this game with the league's leakiest defence, many thought that Geylang International players would be firing on all cylinders right from the first whistle.
The Eagles frontline led by the Croatian hotshot Zuzul, hardly had a sniff at goal for most parts of the first half. Instead, it was the opposing trio of Japanese players - Shuhei Hoshino, Ryoya Taniguchi and Kuraba Kondo - who were peppering shots at their goal in the first half hour of the match.
With the statistics revealing the attempts on goal at 6-0 in favour of the home side, the away supporters, represented by the Ultras Eagles, were urging their attackers to wake up from their slumber and take the game to their rivals.
That cry for more goalmouth action was answered by Sime Zuzul in the 31st minute. With Ho Wai Loon dallying with the ball, Tajeli Salamat challenged for the ball and passed down the right channel to Zuzul. The poacher shot from a tight angle, drawing a save from the Tigers goalie.
Geylang International almost profited from another defensive mistake from two of their old boys six minutes later. A routine knock back from Delwinder Singh bounced off Hairul Syirhan's chest at the edge of the 12-yard box. Hazzuwan quickly pounced on the mistake but his effort was blocked by the outstretched leg of Hairul.
Balestier Khalsa came into the match having the worst defensive record in the league, and it is no surprise looking at the number of mistakes that were made by their backline. It seemed inevitable for the visitors to make a breakthrough at the expense of those errors.
That finally came three minutes after the break with the help of Madhu Mohana's flailing arm inside the penalty box. The former Tampines Rovers man handed the ball in his attempt to defend a Takahiro Tezuka's setpiece delivery from the left. The referee immediately blew the whistle and pointed to the spot, to the cheers of the Ultras Eagles.
Zuzul, the club top goalscorer in the league, coolly dispatch the penalty for his sixth goal of the season, ending his three-game goal drought.
Geylang International who have the tendency of dropping points from winning position, had Zaiful Nizam to thank for when the veteran custodian repelled the efforts by Hoshino and Madhu.
The contest was put to bed in the 78 minute through a Hazzuwan strike. The 28-year-old Singaporean forward rifled the ball into the net, after receiving a threaded ball from Umar Ramle.
Hazzuwan was then presented with a glorious opportunity to double his goal tally of the evening. With four minutes remaining on the clock, Zuzul's pressing effort on the opposing backline paid off as he dispossessed the ball off Ensar Bruncevic and raced clear towards goal. With the goal at his mercy, he opted to pass sideways to his strike partner Hazzuwan, which was quickly cleared for a corner by the backtracking Madhu.
However, that miss did not take the shine off the commanding performance displayed by the green-shirted players. The away victory secured at Toa Payoh capped a fine conclusion to Geylang International's second round of the league campaign, with the team levelling on points with midtable sides Balestier Khalsa and Hougang United.
But the former giants know much work remains to be done to catch up with those clubs in the higher echelons of the league table. Securing a third consecutive win against their next opponents Young Lions would be another small stepping stone towards salvaging their underwhelming season.
Man of the match: Zaiful Nizam - While Sime Zuzul and Hazzuwan Halim are receiving the plaudits for delivering the victory with their respective goals, the club captain deserves praise for preserving Geylang International's lead and earning their back-to-back clean sheet. His point-blank save against Shuhei Hoshino midway through the second half was an important intervention that set the team to victory.