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Match Review: Valiant Eagles Fall to Derby Defeat

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Geylang International's fairytale unbeaten run came to a crashing end with a 4-1 defeat to Tampines Rovers on Wednesday (August 3).

Having not lost for the past seven matches with the last taste of defeat against the Stags on June 18, falling in the hands of the crosstown rivals was a bitter pill to swallow.

Nevertheless, the Eagles fans applauded the remarkable work done by their heroes in green over the past one-and-a-half month with a post-match Viking Clap.

Installed by bookmakers as slight favourites ahead of the game, Geylang International showed their intent of putting their noses in front with an effort by Rio Sakuma in the 4th minute. A free-kick swung in to the six-yard box was headed well over by the Japanese defender.

In the subsequent opening exchanges, the Eagles were able to dictate the game from midfield and were comfortable in possession against their Eastern neighbours.

Against the run of play, it was Tampines Rovers who drew first blood through a Boris Kopitovic strike in the 17th minute. Receiving the ball from Syed Firdaus, the league's top scorer escaped the attention of Faizal Roslan and powered the ball past an outstretched Zaiful Nizam.

Zaiful was determined that his net was not to be breached by the Montenegrin marksman in the 36th minute. His quick double saves against Kopitovic's shots prevented Geylang International from trailing further behind.

In a half with end-to-end action from both teams, Sime Zuzul managed to carve two good chances late in the first period to draw the game level. But he was unfortunate to be denied by the goal frame on those occasions.

The midtable club, who were chasing continental football, came out of the second half with renewed belief of snatching at least a point from the fixture.

However, they were not able to make their setpiece opportunities count with one freekick from Huzaifah Aziz in the 51st minute driving straight at the wall.

Geylang International faced an uphill task in the 70th minute when they went two goals behind.

The usually reliable Zaiful, who has the joint-highest number of clean sheets this season, spilled a cross from the left into the path of Zehrudin Mehmedovic. Caught in a no man's land, the experienced keeper feared the inevitable when the second-half substitute slotted the ball past him and into an empty net.

The Eagles threw themselves a lifeline six minutes from time, when Zuzul raced to Sakuma's threaded pass and rounded Stags keeper Syazwan Buhari before applying the finishing touch.

With the deficit halved, Geylang International head coach Noor Ali threw his men forward in search of the equaliser.

But any hope of a comeback was extinguished when Tampines Rovers scored two late goals in a space of four minutes.

With the long unbeaten streak over, the former giants are handed a difficult assignment of rediscovering their winning ways when they face title contenders Albirex Niigata on August 14.

Man of the match: Sime Zuzul - The Croatian hotshot could have scored more than one goal, if the woodwork had not denied him twice. Zuzul's sixth goal in as many games gave the home fans a glimmer of hope in getting a positive result. But it was not to be with the opponents scoring two quickfire goals to condemn Geylang International their first loss in eight matches.

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