Geylang International FC

Eagles Through To TNP League Cup Semis With Ifwat’s Perfect Hat-Trick

Sitting on the bench, substitutes dream of coming onto the pitch and turning the game on its head – and that was exactly what the Geylang Prime League starlet, Ifwat Ismail did against Tampines Rovers.

Instead, the 20-year-old striker took it a step further and netted his first ever hat-trick to help the Eagles thrash the Stags, 4-1 in ‘The New Paper League Cup 2016’ Group B fixture, on Tuesday evening at Jurong West Stadium.

The emphatic victory was truly special to the Eagles as it extended the ‘Bedok-based’ club’s unbeaten streak to five games and it also marks a first victory against their ‘Eastern Derby’ opponents this season. The second-half ‘Ifwat-thriller’ also ensured that the Eagles were through to TNP League Cup Semi-Finals alongside Brunei DPMM, whom Geylang will face this Friday in their last group stage encounter, to determine which side will top Group B.

The ‘greenwhitearmy’ whom were clad in their ‘away’ black kits, started brightly and found success attacking down the Stags’ flanks early in the game. As early as the 4th minute, Amy Recha almost opened the scoring from Shawal Anuar’s deep cross, but the effort glanced wide. Soon later, it was Yuki Ichikawa’s turn and his header from Shahfiq Ghani’s cross ended up in the side-netting instead.

All three strikers, Gabriel Quak, Amy and Shawal had multiple attempts at goal, but could not find their bearings on goal as the strikes sailed wide of the goal or were harmlessly gathered by Stags’ custodian, Joey Sim.

Tampines then slowly got into the thick of the action and Hafiz Abu Sujad almost broke the deadlock on two separate occasions. First, Geylang’s goalkeeper, Syazwan Buhari denied the Stags’ left winger a goal with a brilliant save with his legs in the 33rd minute. A minute before half-time, the 26-year-old midfielder was put through on goal, but then Hafiz scoffed his shot from inside the penalty box, despite having only Syazwan to beat.

After the restart, Geylang raised eyebrows by introducing Ifwat for Gabriel – one of the most in-form players of the squad. Despite the pressure on entering a goalless stalemate game, the Under-20 striker repaid Head Coach Noor Ali’s faith by breaking the deadlock in the 53rd minute.

Geylang showcased and executed a perfect counter-attack as Ifwat raced past two defenders to latch onto a through pass from Shawal, before a cool right-footed finish past the flailing Joey.

Tampines could have levelled matters with a close-range header from Fazrul Nawaz, but Syazwan kept the Eagles’ lead intact with an outstanding reflex save in the 60th minute. However, three minutes later, Syazwan had to pick up the ball from his net, when an acute-angled free-kick by Fazli Ayob smashed into the back of the net as Tampines clinched the equalizer.

Nevertheless, the celebrations were cut short as Ifwat sent a dagger through the Stags’ hearts once again as he restored the lead for the Eagles almost immediately from the restart. Muhammad Al-Qassimy made an intelligent overlap to receive a flick-on by Amy, before sending in a pin-point cross to Ifwat, whom banged home a header past Joey in the 64th minute.

Despite a slender lead, the Eagles pressed forward for the ‘knockout blow’ – another goal. True enough, Noor Ali’s tactics proved to be working as Amy extended the Eagles’ lead in the 68th minute with a peach of a shot, after pouncing on a loose ball and that marked his third goal in three straight games.

Tampines did have a glimpse of hope in the 82nd minute, as substitute Khairul Nizam got on the end of a long punt and rifled a piledriver at goal. However, Syazwan extinguished any flame of a resurgence with a splendid save.

Soon later, Ifwat would wrap up the scoring and complete his ‘perfect’ hat-trick with a left-footed shot into the back of the net. In the 85th minute, Shawal stole the ball away from a defender and launched a low cross to Ifwat, whom then turned his marker, before firing a finesse shot beyond Joey, to take home the match ball and plaudits.

Speaking after the game, Noor Ali sung praises of his Prime League striker, “I had confidence in Ifwat all this while. After all, he’s been with me in the Prime League for a while already and he’s a hardworking boy who has improved a lot. I was not surprised when he came on to score the three goals and he will definitely start against Brunei DPMM on Friday night at JBS.”

Full Time: Tampines Rovers FC (Fazli Ayob 63’) 1 – 4 (Ifwat Ismail 53’ 64’ & 85’, Amy Recha 68’) Geylang International FC

EAGLES’ Editor Man Of The Match: Ifwat Ismail           

Geylang International FC: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Faritz Hameed, Yuki Ichikawa, Anders Aplin, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Shawal Anuar, Ricardo Sendra, Nor Azli Yusoff (C), Gabriel Quak (Ifwat Ismail 46’), Shahfiq Ghani (Isa Halim 32’), Amy Recha

*Photos Courtesy of S.League

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