Eagles Eke Out Narrow Win Over Cheetahs
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Geylang International returned to winning ways in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League after edging Hougang United 1-0 at Hougang Stadium on Friday night.
Shawal Anuar’s first-half strike proved to be the difference in this encounter as Geylang bounced back from their heavy 5-0 defeat to leaders Albirex Niigata (S) two weeks ago.
The opening 15 minutes or so was tentative as the two teams tried their feet with Pablo Rodriguez’s weak header in the seventh minute being the only noteworthy chance.
Shawal saw his effort from inside the box pushed away by Khairulhin Khalid on 19 minutes before Victor Coto fired just over five minutes later.
It was a warning sign Hougang failed to heed as Geylang broke the deadlock in the 28th minute.
After the Cheetahs failed to clear their lines from a corner, an unmarked Shawal then finished acrobatically at the far post to put the visitors in front.
Geylang nearly doubled their advantage on 36 minutes when Shahfiq Ghani spotted Khairulhin off his line before unleashing an audacious effort on goal but the Hougang custodian tracked back in time to push it behind for a corner.
The home side would however come agonisingly close to pulling level on the stroke of half time when Syahiran Miswan’s fierce 20-yard shot was pushed onto the bar by Syazwan Buhari and away to safety.
Ricardo Sendra then spurned a glorious opportunity to put daylight between themselves and Hougang in the 54th minute as he skied his shot off Gabriel Quak’s cross before Rodriguez nodded narrowly over at the other end moments later.
Shawal could have gotten his second of the night and put the game to bed twelve minutes from time but his left-footed shot failed to trouble Khairulhin.
In a bid to salvage a point from the game, Hougang threw the kitchen sink at Geylang in the closing stages.
Rodriguez volleyed wide in the 83rd minute before substitute Iqbal Hussain poked one straight at Syazwan from a tight angle in the dying moments but it would matter little as Geylang hung on for all three points.
With the result, Geylang remain in fifth spot in the standings with 24 points in 16 games, while Hougang suffered their seventh loss of the season and are a place behind the Eagles.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We didn’t start well and lost out in the physical battle in the opening half hour. It could be a sign of fatigue, but Geylang wanted it more than us. We missed the pace on the flanks today and the final pass was lacking.
“We also made it too easy for them and they could put diagonal balls behind our defence. We didn’t defend the corner well and the players failed to pick up the second balls. But credit has to be given to Geylang who were defensively sound today.”
Geylang International Head Coach Noor Ali: “It was a combination of hard work and teamwork that brought us the good result today.
“We knew Hougang were not an easy team to play with attacking players in their team. We worked on that to counter them in training and managed to limited Hougang to a couple of chances today.
"We should have scored more but I’m happy with our first win over Hougang this season and let’s see how we can move forward from this.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Zulfahmi Arifin, Wahyudi Wahid (Justin Hui 70’), Fabian Kwok, Syahiran Miswan (Gareth Low 88’), Faiz Salleh, Fareez Farhan (Iqbal Hussain 62’), Fumiya Kogure (C), Pablo Rodriguez
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Faritz Hameed, Anders Aplin, Yuki Ichikawa, Darren Teh, Shawal Anuar (Isa Halim 89’), Nor Azli Yusoff (C), Ricardo Sendra, Gabriel Quak (Amy Recha 81’), Victor Coto, Shahfiq Ghani (Ifwat Ismail 72’)