Eagles secure deserved point against Tigers
By Deepanraj Ganesan on 17 April 2014
Leonel Felice celebrates his goal against Balestier Khalsa
Geylang International’s unbeaten run under Jorg Steinebrunner stretched to five games as the Eagles clawed back from behind to draw 1-1 with Balestier Khalsa at the Toa Payoh Stadium. It was a game decided on two opportunistic set piece manoeuvres as both teams shared the spoils. The Tigers took the lead in the first half via a Paul Cunnigham flick on to Goran Ljubojevic, with the marquee signing making easy work of the finish. Leonel Felice then popped up with an equaliser via a corner as he made sure Jorg’s unbeaten reign lived for another week.
Balestier’s head coch, Marko Kraljevic sprung a surprise with his team line-up as Paul Cunningham, known for his swashbuckling defending as a centre back, was deployed up front together with Goran Ljubojevic as a forward. Geylang International meanwhile, named an unchanged line-up to face the Tigers.
The first eleven
It was the away side, which started brightly. Hafiz Nor came closest in the host of chances the Eagles created. After dribbling past the Balestier players, he found himself with only the keeper to beat albeit from an awkward angle. But he failed to steer his effort on target as the ball hit the side netting. Mustaqim Manzur also spurned a chance to put his side in the lead, with his shot from in the box, hitting the post on its way out. Mustaqim then tried to engineer a goal for his teammate, this time a corner from him finding Joaquin Lopez unmarked. The Argentinian however, could only see his header clear the crossbar. The Eagles were then left to rue their profligacy in front of goal in the first half, as Balestier Khalsa took the lead against the run of play.
As Syed Thaha floated in a free kick from inside his own half, Paul Cunningham rose highest to flick the ball on towards Goran Ljubojevic. The marquee signing made easy work of his effort to send the ball past Joey Sim and to give his side the lead.
No stopping Leonel Felice
With the minutes trickling down to the end of the first half, some supporters left their seats to grab their refreshments. But it proved to be an ill-advised decision as Geylang International pulled off what was perhaps the move of the first half. Yuki Ichikawa won the ball on the half way line before he ran his lungs out down the right flank. As a cross was swung in towards Leonel Felice, the Argentinian rose to execute a stunning scissor kick. His effort, took the Balestier goalkeeper and everyone watching by surprise as it came back off the post.
The referee soon blew for half time as the teams went into the tunnel, with Balestier Khalsa holding a slim advantage over Geylang International.
The second half got underway under the darkest of clouds and it was no surprise to the watching faithful when it started to pour at the Toa Payoh Stadium. Along with it, came the much dreaded lightning warning system which forced the referee to suspend play at the 57th minute.
Delighted Geylang International players celebrate the equaliser.
When play finally resumed after what was an hour long wait, Geylang International made tactical changes to force themselves back into the tie. Aliff Shafaein came on for Hafiz Nor to provide more of a tooth in attack. And deservedly, Geylang International found their equalizer. Off a flick on from a corner, Leonel Felice was quickest to react as he nodded the ball past the Balestier goal keeper. The Argentinian wheeled away in delight at scoring his fifth league goal in six games.
The final whistle went off and the tie was settled at 1-1, with both teams cancelling each other out in respective halves.
After the match, Geylang International head coach Jorg Steinebrunner felt his team should have taken all three points. He said: “I think we dropped two points that is the fair assessment of the match.” He rued the chances that his side spurned and felt his team had countered Balestier very well, saying, “We hit the bar twice, we had a free header and we didn’t let them have any chances. We took care of Cunningham and Goran very well.”
The coach was also pleased with how his team had developed under his charge. “We were the team who kept the ball on the deck and played football. It shows we don’t rely on luck anymore and we try to create chances.”
Speaking to the Geylang International media team after the match was current top scorer for the Eagles, Leonel Felice. When asked on how he felt about his current goal haul, he said: “I feel very happy but the most important thing is for us to win. We drew today but the point is a good one for us.”
The Argentinian also added that his team will only get better. “We will improve game by game and soon we want to be in the top four.”