League Cup: Mun strikes to keep Eagles flying
Photography by Aundry Gan
Geylang United continued their surprise winning streak in the StarHub League Cup 2012 competition as they defeated former title winners Gombak United 1-0 in the quarterfinals on Sunday evening, thanks to Mun Seung Man’s second-half goal and a solid defensive display.
The Eagles had topped Group B in the preliminary round with wins against Balestier Khalsa and Albirex Niigata (Singapore), and they made it three victories in a row after first-half substitute Mun tapped in from Jozef Kaplan’s low cross with 15 minutes to go.
Despite the Bulls’ best efforts to break down the Geylang defence, that solitary goal was enough to send the team at the bottom of the S.League table through to the last four of the League Cup.
Eagles head coach Kanan Vedhamuthu made two changes to the side that toppled Albirex in the previous match, with Khayrulhayat Jumat and Jalal coming in for Shahril Alias and Ishak Zainol respectively.
K. Balagumaran meanwhile opted for one change from the Gombak team that drew with Tampines Rovers on Thursday, as Mustaqim Manzur started the match in place of Samuel Benjamin Nadarajah.
Mustaqim signalled the visitors’ early intent clearly enough in the fifth minute with a 35-yard shot that was on target, before Julien Durand, playing in a striker’s role, had another effort from just outside the area caught easily by Ridhuan Barudin.
Geylang were doing much of the defending in the first half, with Gombak holding on to the ball much of the time, but they were unable to create many clear-cut chances as their hosts did a good job of keeping the ball away from their goal.
Mustaqim sliced another shot wide soon enough, while K. Vikraman almost caught the Geylang custodian off-guard with a direct free kick after 14 minutes.
Not much was happening at the other end, with a rare Kaplan shot 16 minutes in finding the arms of Zaiful Nizam.
More opportunities went Gombak’s way in the remainder of the first 45 minutes, as a Walid Lounis header, a free kick by Mustaqim and Christopher Anderson’s effort from inside the area were all kept out easily by Ridhuan.
After an uneventful opening 45 minutes, a rare chance for Geylang sparked the second half into life.
Michael King, who did really well down the left, danced his way into the area, dodging a few challenges before slipping the ball to Kaplan in a crowded penalty area.
Unfortunately for the home team, though, the Slovakian could only poke his shot wide of the far post.
Gombak responded soon after as Hafiz Rahim, once a crowd favourite at Bedok, had a crack at goal from distance that was not too far away.
Mun, who had replaced Nurhazwan Norasikin late in the first half, also had an effort from distance saved, but the Korean was not to be denied for the entire evening.
With the clock showing 75 minutes, a Geylang counterattack released Kaplan down the right, and he did well to make his way to the byline before squaring the ball for an unmarked Mun to tap home from close range.
1-0 it was, and Geylang were in a controlling position so late into the match.
Gombak went on the attack in the last 15 minutes, but rather than creating chances, they were almost exposed at the back again, with Shah Hirul’s attempt going just over the bar.
A minute later, the visitors nearly levelled when Hafiz found himself open just outside the area, but with plenty of time at his disposal, the on-off Singapore international sent his shot wide of the target.
That proved to be the Bulls’ best chance, and even though they threw on Jung Hee Bong to add some height to the attack in the final minutes, they failed to create any more chances as the Eagles hung on for a place in the semifinals.
Kanan was expectedly pleased with the result and hailed his charges for their performance.
“I think this is the first time this season we’ve made it three wins in a row,” said the former national athlete.
“It is the hard work of the boys that has brought this result. They have worked very hard since I have taken over (in March), and doing well in the League Cup was something we wanted to do, because our position in the league is not very good.
“Everybody was fighting hard, and I can’t ask for more from them. For us to go into the semifinals when we’re bottom of the table, it is a very good achievement.
“I’ve told them I want to see them on 11 August at the final!”
Balagumaran attributed the defeat to Geylang’s deep-sitting defence, which successfully kept his men at bay.
“I didn’t expect them to play the way they did, and it gave us a lot of problems,” he admitted.
“We tried to penetrate, but they were very compact. I told the boys to be patient, and we tried to draw them out, but they were quite disciplined on defence.
“I felt from the way Geylang played, they wanted a draw because when it goes to penalties, anything can happen. We did create our chances, but scoring goals has been a problem for us all the while this season.”