He was deemed not fully fit to start the match, but new Brazilian signing Matheus Moresche did not take long to endear himself to the Ultra Eagles with a match-winning brace to help Geylang International beat Tanjong Pagar 2-1 in their Singapore Premier League (SPL) opener at Our Tampines Hub.
Moresche was named as one of seven Geylang substitutes. But the 22-year-old was called upon to make his SPL debut after just 12 minutes when Barry Maguire was stretchered off with a suspected hamstring injury that could worryingly rule him out of the midweek clash against Hougang United.
The silver lining was Moresche took just five minutes to make his presence felt. Zikos Chua delivered a delightful cross from the right which Christopher van Huizen nodded back into the danger area for Moresche, who was then bundled over by Delwinder Singh.
The former Vasco da Gama man dusted himself and confidently slotted in the resulting penalty into the bottom left corner to give Geylang the lead.
However, the advantage lasted for less than five minutes when Blake Ricciuto was given two stabs in the box before he headed in Shahrin Saberin’s cross in the 21st minute for the equaliser.
Geylang’s front three of Amy Recha, Chua and Van Huizen were lively, and looked dangerous on fast breaks, but just could not find a shot on target to test Fashah Iskandar in the Jaguars goal for the rest of the first half.
Clear chances were still at a premium after the restart, but Moresche was not to be denied. Amy pick pocketed the visitors from a throw-in on the right and fed Moresche, who clinically slotted in the winner across Fashah in the 74th minute.
The Eagles defence still had to hold firm to hang on for maximum points. They breathed a sigh of relief when referee Lim Liang Yi waved away a penalty appeal by Luiz Junior, who went down under the challenge of Adam Hakeem in the 84th minute, before Zainol Gulam produced an outstanding save to deny Shodai Nishikawa four minutes later.
With all eyes on the SPL’s Brazilians such as Lion City Sailors’ $3 million man Diego Lopes and Brazil Under-17 World Cup player Junior, it is Moresche who has become the first to shine.
He said: “Every player wants to start and play every match, but I trust Coach Noor Ali and I’m always ready to play and contribute.
“I wish Barry will recover soon but I’m very happy and thankful to score the match-winning goals on my debut.
“There is still more to come from me and my team after we get to know each other better and we get fully fit, and we hope to give our fans more to cheer about.”
Head coach Noor Ali was pleased with the impact Moresche has made in his debut and also the overall performance of the team.
“It’s a good win and we played to our game plan. The boys were very disciplined and organised as they know it’s very important to get the first three points. It gives them a lot of confidence and boost their morale.
“Moresche definitely made an impact with the two great goals he scored. He played well today and we hope he will be fit enough to play the full 90 minutes soon,” said Ali.
Lineup: Zainol Gulam; Darren Teh, Yuki Ichikawa, Faizal Roslan, Harith Kanadi (Adam Hakeem 80); Elijah Lim, Izzdin Shafiq, Barry Maguire (Matheus Moresche 12); Amy Recha, Zikos Chua (Fareez Farhan 60), Christopher van Huizen