Singapore Premier League • May 7, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Geylang keep the faith ahead of Young Lions clash


Geylang International vice-captain Zulfadli Zainal (right) believes that first win is just around the corner.

SINGAPORE, 7 MAY 2018Wounded Geylang International FC are gunning for their first win of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, but it will not come easy against a Young Lions outfit that has been in good form. The match will kick off on Wednesday, 9 May at 7.45pm at Bedok Stadium.

BACKGROUND It has been a season to forget for Geylang, who have struggled to hit form under Japanese Head Coach Hirotaka Usui after retaining just four players from last season.

Three heavy defeats in their last three matches against Brunei DPMM FC (1-4), Home United (1-4) and Albirex Niigata FC (S) (0-5) see them rooted to the foot of the SPL table with almost one-third of the season over.

Vice-captain Zulfadli Zainal Abidin is aware of the need to recover from this slump and avert the possibility of finishing bottom for the first time in the club’s proud history.

“We have to stop conceding early goals,” the 30-year-old said, noting that they have yet to go into half time in the lead or even with a draw all season.

“It has cost us dearly as it puts everybody off-guard. Even if we concede early goals, it’s our responsibility to recover from it fast and get back on track quickly.”

With no games scheduled in the last SPL match-week, the Eagles arranged a friendly with the Singapore Under-19s last Thursday and emerged 3-0 winners at Geylang Field courtesy of a Shawal Anuar hat-trick, giving them a small confidence-booster ahead of the Young Lions game.

“We may be down but we’re certainly not out,” said Zulfadli. “We really worked our socks off during pre-season and the standings do not justify the hard work that we put in. Now, we have to build on this result and get our season up and running.”

As for the Young Lions, they have already equaled their tally of six points from the 2017 season as they currently sit sixth in the table.

Fandi Ahmad’s side then turned their attentions to the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, starting off with an impressive 5-1 rout of Laos before losing 1-0 to Cambodia in the final group game and 2-1 to Timor Leste in the semi-finals, which saw them cop much criticism amongst the local football fraternity.

Midfielder Hami Syahin is keen to learn from that experience as the Young Lions return to face a busy month back in the SPL with six games in 22 days.

“It’s definitely upsetting not to go into the (HBT) final, but we’ve got to be proud of what we’ve done because we’re the first Singapore team to go through to the tournament’s semis,” said the 19-year-old.

“It’s a different level of intensity at the international level and that requires high fitness levels; we can’t afford to hold the ball for too long as the opponents come in fast with their tackles. We also have to finish off every chance that we get to kill the game off fast.

“It’s tough playing six games in May with the fasting month just around the corner, so it’s important for us to have proper recovery and maintain the level of our performance.”

Having not beaten Geylang in the past eight head-to-head encounters, the Young Lions will be relatively confident of putting that run to an end.

TEAM NEWS Geylang will continue to miss the services of Anders Aplin, with the Eagles captain recovering from a groin surgery. Meanwhile, the Young Lions are sweating on the fitness of wide men Naqiuddin Eunos and Zulqarnaen Suzliman after previous injuries.

Geylang: LLLLL
Young Lions: LLWWL

Young Lions 0-4 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
Geylang 2-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
15/04/17: Young Lions 0-2 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
Young Lions 0-2 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
Geylang 3-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League

Shawal Anuar – Geylang
It has been a slow start for Shawal after last season’s sparkling goal-scoring displays, with just one goal in his opening six matches. Nonetheless the 27-year-old remains a huge threat with his terrific pace upfront and he should derive confidence from the three goals against the nation’s Under-19s a week ago.

Joshua Pereira – Young Lions
After an injury-blighted 2017, Pereira is making up for lost time this campaign – having started all six games (three in SPL, three in HBT) for the Young Lions. The 20-year-old has shined alongside Hami in midfield and his tidy distribution of the ball is what keeps his side ticking.

Geylang defender Zulfadli
: “It’s always tough for a new team to come together, but it’s still early in the season and we are confident that we can get our first win soon. The Young Lions have started off brightly and they are certainly not short in confidence. The key for us is to play according to instructions and keep possession of the ball.”

Young Lions midfielder Hami: “It’s a good start for us, but the season is long and anything can happen. We need to stay focussed and grounded all the time to go further. It’ll be tough, but I think a top-five finish is achievable if we put in the hard work. Personally, there’s still room for improvement like creating more chances for my strikers and learning how to better dictate the play.”

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