The depleted Eagles put on yet another defiant display against top opponents, but once again left the pitch without a point to show for after they were beaten 2-1 by defending champions Albirex Niigata at Our Tampines Hub.
Third-choice goalkeeper Wayne Chew started in goal, while first-choice Zainol Gulam did not make it to the bench. As such, Geylang International coach Noor Ali had to tinker again, deploying Dutch midfielder Barry Maguire in defence, bringing in Ilhan Noor as right-back, while switching Darren Teh to the left.
The unfamiliarity told as they were caught cold while trying to pass their way out of defence in the 14th minute, leading to Kosuke Chiku’s calmly placed finish for the opener.
But the Eagles did not roll over, and continued to make life difficult for the White Swans, who did not create any more meaningful opportunities in the first half as they were also without their injured topscorer Kiyoshiro Tsuboi.
At the other end, Matheus Moresche blasted into the side netting, and Reo Kunimoto had to make a last-ditch tackle to block Amy Recha.
They kicked off the second half in the same vein as they searched for an equaliser, and it came just 32 seconds after the restart. Christopher van Huizen closed down an Albirex throw-in, Firdaus Kasman played a nice one-two with Elijah Lim before releasing Moresche. The Brazilian was clinical in the one-on-one situation against Takahiro Koga to level the scores with his eighth goal of the season.
While Hairul Syirhan, who replaced Chew at half-time, had to save from Kazuki Hashioka and Ryoya Taniguchi, Geylang would prove hard to pry open otherwise. And Albirex had to rely on a moment of set-piece brilliance from Takahiro Tezuka to beat Hairul and narrowly edge the Eagles.
Noor Ali said: “Again, we gave away an easy goal, but credit to the boys, we showed good fighting spirit to equalise, and we couldn’t do anything about the free-kick winner.
“Hopefully we will have our injured players back after the international break and turn the corner in the AFC Cup next month.”
Lineup: Wayne Chew (Hairul Syirhan 46); Ilhan Noor, Yuki Ichikawa, Barry Maguire, Darren Teh; Christopher van Huizen, Elijah Lim, Firdaus Kasman, Amy Recha; Fareez Farhan (Faizal Roslan 46), Matheus Moresche (Iqram Rifqi 74)