Singapore, March 20: Two early contenders for the AIA Singapore Premier League Goal of the Season lit up Our Tampines Hub as Geylang International were held 1-1 by the visiting Young Lions.
Eagles coach Noor Ali made four changes to the side that were beaten 4-1 by Hougang United midweek – restoring goalkeeper Zainol Gulam to the starting XI, introducing 18-year-old Azri Suhaili in midfield, and deploying both foreign forwards Sylvano Comvalius and Matheus Moresche from the beginning.
And it was the 1.92-metre Comvalius who caught the eye, first with his stature as he towered over his waifish opponents, and then his good movement to stay onside and latch on to Christopher van Huizen’s peach of a cross in the 22nd minute, only to shoot straight at Nurshafiq Zaini.
The Dutchman was not to be denied, and opened his SPL account in spectacular fashion 12 minutes later, muscling a defender off the ball before unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner.
The hosts then weathered some set-piece pressure towards the end of the half to go into the break with the lead.
They could have doubled their advantage when Azri volleyed wide from Comvalius’ cross from the right just before he was substituted in the 53rd minute.
And they were made to pay for their profligacy eight minutes later when Khairin Nadim picked up Daniel Goh’s pass and curled a pearler into the far corner from almost where the first goal was scored.
In doing so, Khairin became the youngest player to reach five SPL goals at just 16 years, 10 months, 16 days.
Zainol then had to be alert to save Ilhan Fandi’s header off a corner, and at the other end, Comvalius hit the bar before Nurshafiq blocked Van Huizen’s follow-up in the 70th minute.
Firdaus Kasman could have pinched maximum points for Geylang right at the end, but headed Van Huizen’s corner wide.
Noor Ali said: “We have to put things in context. It is still early in the season, and with the injuries we have had, we still have got four points from our first three games.
“We played much better than against Hougang, but of course, we are disappointed not to get the full three points.
“The team played well as a whole, but I was very pleased with Elijah and Azri, who were excellent in midfield, and I’m happy to see the young players stepping up.”
Comvalius added: “Personally, I’m happy to be here and to score a nice goal, but we are here with just one point, so we are disappointed. The international break is coming up before we play Albirex Niigata on April 4, so it is reflection time to see how we can do better. I feel we have a lot of potential and we can still improve on being more compact as a team and more organised in the way we play.”
Lineup: Zainol Gulam; Darren Teh, Yuki Ichikawa, Faizal Roslan, Harith Kanadi (Iqram Rifqi 79); Elijah Lim (Amy Recha 82), Firdaus Kasman, Azri Suhaili (Izzdin Shafiq 53); Matheus Moresche, Sylvano Comalius, Christopher van Huizen