Eagles Finally Soar Higher Than White Swans In The ‘Battle Of The Birds’
By Kevin Prasad on 23 July 2016
A moment of brilliance by Shawal Anuar helped Geylang International secure a 1-0 victory over Albirex Niigata (S) FC on Friday evening at Bedok Stadium, as the Eagles ensured they walked away with a win in their last ‘The New Paper’ League Cup group fixture.
The Eagles finally avenged their Japanese counterparts, as Geylang managed to triumph the White Swans for the first time in five ‘Battle Of The Birds’ meetings, this season.
Just two weeks ago, Albirex dashed Geylang’s RHB Singapore Cup aspirations, as the former knocked out the Eagles from the prolific local cup competition, after losing out on a 4-2 aggregate score over a two-legged affair.
Winless in four consecutive games, missing up to 10 first-team players and facing the current S.League leaders, the odds were heavily stacked against Geylang. However, Hasrin Jailani’s charges were out to impress and rally for revenge, and they eventually got it through their young starlet, Shawal’s stunner in the first-half.
A sign of things to come, was clearly indicated inside the opening minutes, as Prime League stalwart, Umar Akhbar raced past the Japanese back-line and found himself in a “one-on-one” situation inside the box. However, the 20-year-old midfielder, unleashed a pile driver straight in to Eita Kasagawa’s arms.
Albirex gradually settled into the game and almost took the lead in the 11th minute, with Tatsuro Inui’s 30-yard curling free-kick. On the contrary, the Geylang’s glovesman, Hairul Syirhan was on par with the terrific effort, as he duly parried away the whizzing attempt, to safety.
Soon later, Filipino hotshot striker, Mark Hartmann almost opened the scoring at the Eagles’ Nest, with a terrific free-kick attempt from about 30yards, but it unfortunately sailed over the bar.
After much offensive pressure, Geylang finally broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute. Shawal’s wonder strike sent the crowd into ecstasy, as he pounced on a poor clearance by Kasagawa, to fire a first-time 35-yard rocket, into the back of the net, despite the back-pedalling Albirex’s defenders.
Stunned by that blockbuster goal, the White Swans pushed numbers forward in the second-half, in search of an equalizer. Albirex almost got their reward in the 71st minute, through a goalmouth scramble, but former LionsXII’s midfield anchor, Isa Halim duly executed a goal-line clearance, to save the Eagles’ blushes.
In overall, Geylang’s defenders skippered by Shariff Samat, were outstanding and steadfast throughout the night as they fend off almost every attempt successfully.
In the 84th minute, Hartmann had a glorious chance to double the lead and possibly seal the game, with a wicked snapshot from inside the box. Then again, the goal-bound attempt, took a few deflections, before narrowly rolling out for a corner-kick.
In the dying stages, Albirex had a last chance to restore parity with their captain, Inui, whom spun away from his marker, before sending a bullet, which shaved the left post, as the final whistle followed soon after.
Despite clinching a splendid win and notching four points in the group stages, the Eagles had to settle for third place and a Plate Semi-Final meeting with Warriors FC, as they recorded an inferior goal difference as compared to Home United FC.
Speaking after the game, Hasrin Jailani, whom was delighted with the way his players bounced back from a heavy 5-0 defeat by the Protectors, “Coming back from that bogey result wasn’t an easy task at all. The players showed true grit and character to play according to instructions. Now we’re in the Plate competition and we’ll try to win it, just like how we try to win every game. Of course as a club, we want to win something this year.”
Full Time : Geylang International FC (Shawal Anuar 32’) 1 – 0 Albirex Niigata (S) FC
EAGLES’ Editor Man Of The Match: Shawal Anuar
Geylang International FC: Hairul Syirhan (GK), B. Jeevakumaran, Shariff Samat, Yuki Ichikawa, Anders Aplin, Isa Halim (C), Robert Camarasa (Taufiq Ghani 67′), Umar Akhbar (Julien Prince 76′), Shawal Anuar, Mark Hartmann, Stanely Ng (Indra Sahdan 89′)
*Photos Courtesy of S.League