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Match Review: Much-improved Eagles Earn Admiration in 1-0 Loss to the Sailors

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Geylang International took the game to Lion City Sailors as they valiantly fell to a 1-0 defeat in their eighth Singapore Premier League fixture on Saturday (May 14).

After a series of hapless displays against Balestier Khalsa and Young Lions which damaged Geylang's season aspirations, the club's social media team had to issue a brief statement appreciating the fans' support and vowing to do better.

True to their words, the Eagles proved to be no pushovers in their encounter against the league leaders.

In fact, the away side kept their hosts at bay in the early exchanges as the latter did not register a shot on target until the 35th minute.

It was Geylang International who fashioned the best chance in the opening stages of the game. In the 29th minute, Šime Žužul ran with the ball near the centre line of the pitch and laid it to an overlapping Hazzuwan Halim. Having made great strides towards goal, the 28-year-old forward shot straight at an onrushing Hassan Sunny.

Six minutes later, the visitors received a sucker punch as the home team scored from their first shot on target. The Belgian winger Maxime Christophe Lestienne whipped in a corner which found his unmarked Brazilian teammate Diego Lopes. The former Rio Ave man bulleted a header past Geylang International's backup goalkeeper Hafiz Ahmad.

One-nil up for the overwhelming favourites, many would have thought that the floodgates had opened for the Sailors to rain more goals.

However, the chances had dried up for the defending champions as the Eagles defence, marshalled by Abdil Qaiyyim, held resolutely for the rest of the match.

Lion City Sailors had one more shot on target in the 50th minute via Lopes, but that was dealt comfortably by Hafiz.

With every minute ticking towards the final whistle, Geylang International's confidence grew and there was a belief that they could get something out from the game.

The seventh-placed side who were on a six-game winless run prior to this fixture, were so close to snatching a draw just before injury time. Set-piece specialist Takahiro Tezuka fired a free-kick from range and it thundered off the Sailors' goal frame.

While the valiant effort from the Eagles had won them plaudits for restricting the Sailors to a narrow win, they left Jalan Besar Stadium in search of that elusive second win of the season.

That opportunity to end the winless streak could arrive when they welcome Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub the following Sunday (May 22).

Man of the match: Abdil Qaiyyim - The central defender who had played through the pain barrier on a couple of occasions this season, put his body on the line against his former employers. This was epitomised when he took a heavy whacking to his head from Lion City Sailors midfielder Song Uiyoung's close-range shot. The stand-in captain for Geylang International also made several crucial interceptions which nullified the Sailors' goal threats and disrupted their attacking rhythm.

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