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Match Review: Eagles' Unbeaten Run Ends with 2-0 Defeat to Jaguars

Photo credit: Farn

Two strikes from Jaguars Shakir Hamzah and Blake Ricciuto in a league match played on Friday (March 10) condemned Geylang International to their first defeat of the season.

Having come from behind to beat Young Lions and Hougang United in the previous two games, the Eagles were not able to repeat the trick for a third time as they failed to find a way past a resilient Tanjong Pagar backline.

In fact, the league pacesetters - who came into this fixture as the favourites after starting the campaign unbeaten - found themselves on the backfoot from the first whistle as the Jaguars kept piling pressure in their goal area and peppered shots towards Hafiz Ahmad.

Unable to relieve the keeper's ordeal and bring the ball out of their own half, Geylang International finally cracked under pressure 18 minutes into the match, when Jaguars captain and centre-back Shakir struck from close range from a Ricciuto knockdown.

With the Eagles failing to muster a shot inside the opposition box in the ensuing first half, tension built up in the away stands with a remark "stop running like headless chicken" directed towards an unfortunate scapegoat, Gareth Low, whose sloppiness in conceding the ball for a corner culminated in the Jaguars' opener in the next phase of play.

The half time was a welcome break for assistant coach Syed Azmir - who stood in place for the absent Noor Ali - as it presented an opportunity for him to reconfigure his toothless attack by bringing on the experienced Iqbal Hussein and Shahfiq Ghani in place of youngsters Low and Danish Haziq.

But before Geylang International could get their act together, the Jaguars doubled their lead three minutes after the break through a thumping header from Riccuito.

The Australian import almost made it three soon after via another headed attempt, but was denied smartly by Hafiz who went down to his near post and held on to the ball.

Despite Syed shoring up his frontline in the second period, the Eagles did not manage to get behind the Jaguars' back four until the 67th minute when Yushi Yamaya's header inside the box was palmed to safety by the opposing goalie.

In what was the biggest miss of the night by the fallen Singaporean giants, Shafiq blasted his effort over the bar three minutes from time after racing first to a spilled shot with only the keeper to beat.

The failure to pick up points in this game sees early frontrunners Geylang International dropping to second place in the table, behind new league leaders Tampines Rovers on goal difference.

With the two-time league champions facing title contenders Lion City Sailors and Brunei DPMM in back-to-back matches over the next nine days, the Eagles supporters are bracing for tough times ahead and hope the team will still be near the top of the table before the international break.

Man of the match: Ultras Eagles - Whether it's rain or shine, Our Tampines Hub or Jurong East Stadium, the hardcore supporters have been turning up in droves to back their beloved team. Given that the fixture was played on a Friday night with students and working professionals rushing down to the venue after a long week in school or at work, kudos to the lads who offered a delightful treat to the fans - ranging from popcorn to curry puffs - that helped fill up famished stomachs while keeping spirits high. With renditions of "Take me home, Bedok Road" ringing around the away ground at Jurong East, the boisterous Ultras Eagles had made the 2,700-capacity stadium their home.

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