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Match Review: Nine-Man Eagles Humilated by Young Lions in 4-2 Defeat

Photo credit: Geylang International

With the remote possibility of Group A leaders Brunei DPMM being expelled from the Singapore Cup as a result of a potential FIFA ban on the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam, the Eagles fans continued holding on to the belief of progression to the knockout stages of the cup competition so long as their team could triumph bottom-side Young Lions in a final group match on Sunday (November 26).

Instead, the long-suffering supporters - who have not seen their team lift a trophy since 2016 - were treated to a horror show at Our Tampines Hub as two red cards to Ahmad Syahir and Shafiq Ghani proved decisive in overturning a two-goal lead into an embarassing 4-2 loss.

While being tagged as the firm favourites on the eve of the contest, the fallen Singaporean giants were slow off the blocks as they struggled to break down their opponents' defences and offer any geniune threat to young custodian Umayr Sujuandy for much of the first half.

Thankfully, two 'goal of the tournament' contenders from Geylang late in the first period were to bring a drab half to life.

Yushi Yamaya's failure to cleanly control a cross from Ahmad saw the ball bouncing towards a lurking Takahiro Tezuka outside of the penalty area. The 25-year-old signing from Albirex Niigata then whacked a perfectly executed screamer into the net, sending the home section into frenzy.

Not to be outdone by his Japanese compatriot, Yamaya got into the act minutes later when he received a layoff from Shafiq at the edge of the box and fired a piledriver past a diving Umayr.

The Eagles have not been in the referees' good books this season, collecting a record high of seven red cards prior to this clash - the latest being a controversial sending-off of Naufal Azman after a video assistant referee (VAR) review in a group match against DPMM.

To the bemusement of the home side, it was deja vu just four minutes into the second half when match official Taufik Thana gave Ahmad his marching orders after consulting the VAR. It was a perplexed call as replays would show that Ahmad merely ran into Jared Gallagher and accidentally struck his ankle with a trailling foot.

Barely recovering from the shocking decision, Geylang were to be pegged back by two quickfire goals from Young Lions.

In the 56th minute, central midfielder Kan Kobayashi had the final touch with his knee into goal after a goalmouth scramble. Within minutes, former Geylang academy player Kieran Teo put his imposing height to good use as he rose the highest to head in from a corner.

There was no let up in the Eagles' run-in with the referee as another VAR intervention ruled a red against Shafiq for violent conduct against his opponent.

Urged on by their diehard Ultras Eagles, the nine-man team tried to push for a winning goal by relying on the pace and individual skills of the highly talented Yamaya to ghost past the opposing backline.

But it was the numerically superior Young Lions who condemned the pre-match favourites to a humiliating defeat by scoring two injury-time goals through Gallagher and Farhan Zulfikli.

Geylang's disastrous cup outing which saw them plummetting to the bottom of Group A with only a solitary win to show for - coupled with an underwhelming fifth-placed league finish - forbode a squad overhaul for the 2024 season. Until a well-thought transfer strategy is put in place, returning to the trophy-laden glory days of yesteryear will remain a pipe dream for the storied club and their loyal fanbase.

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