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Bottom teams carve out scrappy draw

Gary Koh

Geylang player Jozef Kaplan
Photography by Aundry Gan

Geylang United and Woodlands Wellington, the bottom two teams in the S.League standings, played out a scrappy 1-1 draw in their encounter at Bedok Stadium on Thursday evening.

Woodlands fired the first salvo through Hussein Akil in the middle of the first half, but Geylang ensured neither side would steer away from the wooden spoon yet with a Jozef Kaplan penalty after the break.

The stalemate ensured both teams remain three points adrift of eleventh-placed Gombak United, with the Rams slightly ahead of their opponents on goal difference.

Eagles head coach Kanan Vedhamuthu handed new import signing Stefan Milojevic his debut in this match, after his international transfer certificate arrived in time to complete the necessary paperwork in the morning.

The Frenchman slotted into attacking midfield behind lone forward Michael King, with several regulars shafted into out-of-position roles as Kanan rejigged his lineup for the second half of the campaign.

Former Singapore international Ishak Zainol was benched while Shah Hirul, Jalal and Prime League midfielder Nurhazwan Norasikin were handed starts.

Woodlands made a few changes to their lineup following their agonising home reverse to the Courts Young Lions in the previous round.

With midfield hard man Han Yiguang suspended following his red card last week, Aloysius Yap took his place at central midfield alongside Armanizam Dolah.

Returning forward Navin Vanu started in right midfield after spending a year with the Young Lions, while Goh Swee Swee was relegated to the bench.

As Salim Moin’s men did in their last outing, they had the better start as the hosts struggled to adjust to their reconfigured lineup.

The foreign strike pair of Moon Soon Ho and Akil were constantly putting the white shirts on the back foot as they dictated the pace of the game in the first half.

They showed fluency in their passing and movement going forward, while Geylang were content to punt hopeful long balls that were often received by grateful blue shirts.

The first chance of the game came after 17 minutes, when Moon was released by Akil on the left, but the former Super Reds winger’s attempt wriggled just wide.

Another feed from the Australian-Lebanese midfielder found the Rams’ top scorer four minutes later, but he shot over from 20 yards.

The Korean returned the favour with a through pass that would result in the opening goal almost immediately after his miss.

His play allowed Akil to sprint past a static Geylang defence and slot past an onrushing Yazid Yasin inside the box to give the visitors the lead.

Woodlands could have made it two in five minutes when they were presented with a superb counterattacking opportunity.

An interception inside their own half resulted in the ball being released to Vanu, who went on a surging run as the Rams piled on the numbers against a sole white shirt at the other end.

Vanu’s application inside the final third was left much to be desired, though, as he fumbled and took too long to control the ball, allowing the Eagles to regroup in front of him.

The Rams were then guilty of poor offensive positioning shortly after, when Akil’s shot was deflected to the near post following Yazid’s fumble, but no blue shirt was present inside to pounce the loose ball.

Geylang nearly made them pay for their profligacy before the interval when a smart run from Kaplan found Milojevic, whose final touch inside the box went just wide.

English striker King had the ball in the net three minutes before the break, but he was ruled offside before his finish.

The disallowed goal only made the two-time league winners step up their game in the second half, with Milojevic central in their attacking plans.

His first game for the hosts ended prematurely, however, when he pulled a leg muscle during an attack and had to be replaced by Amy Recha Samion four minutes after the hour.

Geylang were given a lifeline on 67 minutes when referee Sukhbir Singh pointed to the spot for an alleged Woodlands handball whilst clearing a corner.

Kaplan notched his fifth goal of the season from the spot despite Rams goalkeeper Ahmadulhaq Che Omar guessing the direction of the penalty correctly.

The equaliser sparked a mad scramble between the sides as they searched for a winner in the final moments of the game.

Moon had several opportunities to hand his team their first win since their 3-1 home victory over the same opponents back in February.

Two of these efforts drew superb reflex saves from Yazid, while Akil was unlucky to see his header off a cross hit the near post.

King blew the home side’s best chance to haul themselves off the bottom when he sent his attempt off a Mun Seung Man feed wide with two minutes remaining.

Neither Kanan nor Woodlands assistant coach Clement Teo was satisfied with his share of the spoils in their respective post-match analyses.

“We could have gotten three points,” lamented Kanan.

“We had three disallowed goals because of some officiating.

“We had a very scrappy first half, but we came out fighting in the second. We could have won the game if these disallowed goals were counted.”

Teo meanwhile rued his team’s lack of luck for the draw.

“I am more disappointed that we didn’t win because we expected something in this game,” he said.

“We came out, played our game and did everything we could. What we lacked were two additional points.

“This was the second time in a row we took the lead and gave it away. We couldn’t convert more of the numerous chances we had in the first half and allowed Geylang to sneak back early in the second half.”

Kanan was pleased with the 64-minute cameo of his new foreign signing Milojevic, and believed he would have a bigger impact for the Eagles in the games ahead.

“We had to take Stefan out in the second half as he took a knock in the calf,” he explained.

“Even though he is a defender, I put him as second striker behind King as he is good in distributing forward balls and pressing up front.

“This was his first game, so he didn’t know the standard of our league beforehand. Now that he has played once, he will get better.”

  • Geylang United
  • Woodlands Wellington