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Match Review/Preview: Eagles Losing Steam in Race for Asia

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

A Bezecourt-less Geylang International side lost ground to fourth-placed Balestier Khalsa, who are occupying a potential qualifying spot for AFC Cup, as the former went down to a 2-0 home defeat to Hougang United on Wednesday night (June 12).


Playing simultaneously on the same evening, the Tigers comfortably beat Young Lions 4-2 which stretched their lead over the Eagles to seven points, albeit having played a game more.


Without the creativity of Vincent Bezecourt who is ruled out for the rest of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Geylang unsurprisingly did not make much headway in the attacking third, testing opposite goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam on only three occasions in the first 45 minutes.


Just as when the situation was not dire enough for the hosts, a careless challenge from Danish Irfan in the first-half injury time saw the loanee dismiss for a second yellow - his second sending-off in four appearances since joining from Tampines Rovers in June.


The resultant freekick was a sucker punch, as Kristijan Krajcek's delivery flew straight into the net.


With Hougang not being convincing in their display, Eagles head coach Noor Ali sensed a draw was within their grasp and brought on more attacking substitutes as the second period wore on in the hope of finding the elusive goal.


But Gabriel Quak's strike two minutes from time put to bed any of such hopes and killed off any resistance from the home side.


Man of the match: Takahiro Tezuka - In the absence of his French teammate, the Japanese central midfielder did his best to control proceedings and keep any attacking moves going in the centre of the pitch. But there was so much the tireless 24-year-old could do for his goal-shy team.


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In a quick turnaround of fixtures, Geylang International travel to Jurong East Stadium on Saturday (July 15) to face an out-of-form Tanjong Pagar United.


Losing five games on the spin ahead of this weekend fixture, the Jaguars are languishing second from bottom on 15 points, eight adrift of the fifth-placed Eagles.


But the hosts' dismal form does not make Geylang's task any easier as they are still grappling with the loss of Vincent Bezecourt.


In the midweek 2-0 loss to Hougang United, the Tampines-based side lacked penetration in attack and had only three shots on target.


Head coach Noor Ali is very much aware that unless he can find a solution upfront, a second consecutive defeat to another bottom-half side may well be on the cards, which is likely to end any lingering hope of continental football.


Team news: Danish Irfan will be suspended for Saturday's game while Vincent Bezecourt, Huzaifah Aziz, Noor Ariff and Amirul Adli are ruled out through injuries.


Player to watch: Yushi Yamaya - With no able replacement for the attacking midfield role in sight, the signing from Yokohama Marinos -recommended to Geylang by City Football Group - has to step up his attacking output. Returning only six goals in 17 appearances, many in the club feel that a player of his pedigree can do more on the goalscoring front.

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