It has been a recurring theme for Geylang International this season, but once again the Eagles received an injury setback when key players Harith Kanadi and Sylvano Comvalius were not fit to take on the Lion City Sailors.
However, unlike the 8-0 drubbing by the same opponents last month, Noor Ali’s men can hold their heads high this time as they made life difficult for their richer opponents at Jalan Besar Stadium before succumbing 2-1.
With some luck, Geylang might have nicked a point or even all three.
Noor Ali made four changes to the starting lineup that beat Young Lions 4-2 last month, and handed 20-year-old goalkeeper Sanders Saurajen and 18-year-old right-back Ilhan Noor their Singapore Premier League debuts.
There were also other adjustments as Barry Maguire was pulled back into defence to slot in for the unavailable Faizal Roslan.
Saurajen gave a good account of himself, denying Stipe Plazibat in the 16th minute. But he was helpless to prevent the Croat from lashing into the bottom corner following a poor square pass by Darren Teh.
But the lively visitors pressed hard for an equaliser, and found one just five minutes later when Hassan Sunny’s casual pass was seized upon by Matheus Moresche, who slotted in for his seventh goal of the season.
With Sailors’ $3 million playmaker Diego Lopes having a quiet game, there was no doubt Geylang had the more impressive Brazilian on the night, and Sailors defender Jorge Fellipe was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card after a late challenge on Moresche in the 32nd minute as the Eagles ending the first half the better side.
Five minutes into the second half, Moresche found the top corner after a nice flick by Fareez Farhan, only to be ruled out by a marginal offside call.
Efforts by Amy Recha and Firdaus Kasman later were either straight at Hassan or narrowly off the mark.
At the other end, Saurajen pulled off good stops against Player of the Year Gabriel Quak and Young Player of the Year Saifullah Akbar.
But the latter had the last word when he found the bottom corner from 25 metres in the 57th minute.
While his team had no points to show for, Noor Ali was encouraged by the performance, and said: “Considering our circumstances, and with two debutants and Barry playing out of position, I’m proud of how the team played and pushed the Sailors.
“We all know the quality the Sailors have, but we matched them tonight. We deserved at least a draw, but if we can carry on playing like this, we will be able to pick up more points from here.”
Lineup: Sanders Saurajen; Ilhan Noor, Yuki Ichikawa, Barry Maguire, Darren Teh; Izzdin Shafiq, Elijah Lim (Christopher van Huizen 60), Firdaus Kasman; Amy Recha, Matheus Moresche, Fareez Farhan (Azri Suhaili 77)