Second-half fightback not enough to avoid narrow 2-1 loss to Balestier

Despite a spirited second-half display, Geylang International were beaten 2-1 by Balestier Khalsa at Toa Payoh Stadium.

Geylang coach Noor Ali made two changes to the starting XI that narrowly lost 1-0 to champions Albirex Niigata on Sunday, as Adam Hakeem made his first start of the season in place of injured skipper Yuki Ichikawa in the heart of defence, while Brazilian forward Matheus Moresche came in for Fareez Farhan.

But the Eagles were ultimately undone by the two goals they conceded in the first half, after warning signs went unheeded.

Zainol Gulam had already made big saves to deny Kristijan Krajcek and Shuhei Hoshino in the first 35 minutes to keep Geylang in the game, when the Croatian was allowed time and space to lash in the opener in the 36th minute.

Then, in first-half stoppage time, Krajcek turned provider when his cross was headed in by 1.96m defender Ensar Bruncevic. Noor Ali made attacking changes at the break, swopping Elijah Lim and Moresche for Christopher van Huizen and Amy Recha, which paid immediate dividends.

Just seven minutes after the restart, Amy clinically headed Van Huizen’s cross past a stranded Zaiful Nizam. Crosses from wide positions were the Eagles’ main threat, but Van Huizen couldn’t finish off a fine Darren Teh centre in the 88th minute, and Amy’s header in added time was deflected wide as the Eagles were made to reflect on a third defeat in four games.

Noor Ali said: “We put in the effort and then we concede goals. These losses are hard to swallow because we have been giving away easy goals.”

He added: “We are disappointed, but the reality is we don’t have our full complement of foreigners (midfielder Barry Maguire is out with a hamstring injury) and we are not able to have a settled starting line-up. Yuki got injured against Albirex and Adam was a bit nervous in the first half but did better in the second half.

“We will keep trying to pick up points. We just have to stay positive and hope that by the end of the first round, the injuries clear up and we have a more settled side.”

Lineup: Zainol Gulam; Darren Teh, Adam Hakeem, Faizal Roslan, Harith Kanadi; Elijah Lim (Christopher van Huizen 46), Firdaus Kasman, Izzdin Shafiq; Nur Luqman (Iqram Rifqi 72), Sylvano Comvalius, Matheus Moresche (Amy Recha 46)