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Match Review: Nine-man Eagles Escape with a 3-3 Draw Against Jaguars

Photo credit: Rishi Raja

Vincent Bezecourt's stunning free kick deep in injury time against Tanjong Pagar United salvaged a point for a nine-man Geylang International, when the two teams battled at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday evening (October 9).

The Frenchman's divine intervention was godsend with the Eagles on the verge of a meltdown in a nightmarish second half.

The squad were not only decimated by a red card dismissal and injuries to their first-choice striker and goalkeeper, but they also faltered in the face of a heavy Jaguars onslaught and had their two-goal advantage overturn.

With Geylang International needing a win to overtake their opponents in fourth, all seemed to go according to plan when the hosts scored twice in the first period with a strike by Bezecourt and a Shakir Hamzah own goal.

But the comfortable lead over Tanjong Pagar United came under severe threat when Huzaifah Aziz received his marching orders near the hour mark for a second yellow card offence.

The numerical disadvantage was immediately felt when Mirko Sugic's header stung the outstretched palm of Zaiful Nizam.

However, the veteran goalkeeper could not keep the ball out of the net when Blake Ricciuto and Khairul Nizam headed in their respective attempts in the 64th and 72nd minutes.

Zaiful's night had gone from bad to worse when he picked up an ankle injury while attempting to dive for Reo Nishiguchi's shot in the 76th minute, and had to limp off the pitch agonisingly.

With the Eagles having already used their substitutions in three stoppages, including one to replace the injured Sime Zuzul, head coach Noor Ali was not allowed to bring his backup goalie onto the field.

Among the outfield players at his disposal, the Singaporean trainer entrusted Joshua Pereira, who is already known for his versatility, with the pair of gloves.

Pereira received loud cheers from the home fans in the 88th minute when he scooped Faritz Hameed's shot safely into his arms.

But the 1.78m stand-in keeper could only grasp air a minute later when Nishiguchi connected Daniel Bennett's cross with his head into goal.

Staring at a certain defeat with two men down and only stoppage time to go, an opportunity to level the game arose when Shakir brought down Hazzuwan Halim outside the penalty area.

Bezecourt then pulled off a miracle as he whipped the ball over the wall and into the bottom right corner of the net.

Pereira still had to make the point safe at the other end of the pitch, when he diverted Ricciuto's goal-bound effort with a full-stretched save.

Coming away from a see-saw contest with a point, finishing fourth would be the best fifth-placed Geylang International could hope for, with Tampines Rovers in third securing that position after a 4-1 dismantling of Hougang United the day before.

Just as this match has proved, nothing is impossible so long as one has the will to achieve.

Man of the match: Vincent Bezecourt - When the chips are down, Geylang International are able to count on their talismanic midfielder to deliver the goods. As with previous occasions this season when Bezecourt had single-handedly flipped results in the Eagles' favour, his late equaliser against the Jaguars had saved his team from an embarrassing defeat and has kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive.

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