News • October 21, 2016
Eagles Overcome Cheetahs To Keep AFC Cup Hopes Alive
Written by: Ryan Low
It is down to a two-way fight between Home United and Geylang International to finish as the second-highest local team, after the latter edged Hougang United 1-0 away from home on Thursday evening.
Sahil Suhaimi scored the only goal of the game right before half time as Geylang kept their hopes of reaching the 2017 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup alive.
It was a rather open first-half with both sides trading opportunities. Shahfiq Ghani’s early free kick was kept out by Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid, while Jozef Kaplan’s 20-yard attempt was smothered by Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari.
The visitors should have gone ahead on 35 minutes when Daniel Bennett’s long ball found Shawal Anuar in the box, but the latter was denied by Khairulhin in a one-on-one situation.
Hougang then almost scored five minutes later when Fumiya Kogure picked out Kaplan with a superb right-wing cross, but the Hougang captain could only volley over from six yards out.
The deadlock was finally broken two minutes before half time, with Sahil firing inside Khairulhin’s near post from inside the box after taking the ball past two Hougang defenders to give Geylang the lead.
Hougang piled on the pressure in the second half, but there was no way past the stout Geylang backline led by Shariff Samat.
Iqbal Hussain was at the end of a couple of excellent openings but was unable to keep his shots on target, while substitute Fairoz Hasan headed wide despite being unmarked in the box.
At the other end, Khairulhin kept the score down by denying shots from Sahil, Amy Recha and Mark Hartmann.
Geylang then survived a mighty scare deep into injury time with Daniel Bennett almost slicing Kogure’s teasing left-wing cross into his own net.
The Eagles eventually held on for the crucial win that kept them three points behind Home in the chase for the second AFC Cup qualifying spot, while Hougang’s continental dreams are dashed after this result.
Hougang United coach K Balagumaran: “We played according to the game plan and created more chances upfront, but Geylang sat back and countered us. For the goal, we had two against one but still Sahil was able to go through.
“I think the talk about qualifying for AFC Cup gave my players a bit of pressure, while Geylang was more composed in their play.
“At the start of the season, the club set a target of finishing in the top five and it is still achievable. So we’re going for the three points in our final game (against Warriors FC).”
Geylang International coach Hasrin Jailani: “If we allowed Hougang to play, they will dictate right from the start. So we pressed them from the start and tried to play in the middle, which we did quite well. In the end, the three points was the most important thing.
“We need to win by five goals against Home (United) next week (to make the AFC Cup), but I can tell you we’re not giving up. There’s always hope and anything can happen. Hopefully the fans turn up at Bedok Stadium next Tuesday and I can promise it will be an exciting game.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Yusiskandar Yusop (Afiq Noor 17’), M. Anumanthan, Jozef Kaplan (C), Fumiya Kogure, Stipe Plazibat (Faiz Salleh 63’), Nazrul Nazari, Iqbal Hussain, Huzaifah Aziz (Fairoz Hasan 75’), Raihan Rahman, Nurhilmi Jasni
Geylang International:Syazwan Buhari (GK), Yuki Ichikawa, Isa Halim (C), Shariff Samat, Daniel Bennett, Faritz Hameed, Shahfiq Ghani (Mark Hartmann 61’), Amy Recha (Anders Aplin 88’), Nor Azli Yusoff, Shawal Anuar, Sahil Suhaimi (Stanely Ng 72’)