Singapore Premier League • June 2, 2018

Yuki Ichikawa the hero as Geylang edge Balestier


The Eagles captain scored the winner and made a goal-line clearance as they got back to winning ways

Yuki Ichikawa scored his first goal of the season for Geylang International FC.

SINGAPORE, 2 JUNE 2018 – Geylang International FC returned to winning ways in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) on Saturday after beating Balestier Khalsa FC 2-1 at Toa Payoh Stadium.

Yuki Ichikawa emerged as the hero for the Eagles with his 73rd-minute winner, after Balestier’s Huzaifah Aziz had cancelled out Fairoz Hasan’s quick-fire opener.

The result means that it was Geylang who managed to produce the perfect response to losing, with both teams having fallen to defeat in their previous outings against Tampines Rovers and Albirex Niigata FC (S) respectively.

It did not take long for the visitors to open the scoring as they broke the deadlock within the opening 60 seconds.

Pouncing on a searching ball over the top, Fairoz enjoyed a bit of fortune as he got past a challenge before his low shot was spilled by Tigers goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, who could only watch on in horror as the ball trickled over the line.

Buoyed at going ahead, Geylang started to play with an air of confidence and Ichikawa was not far away from doubling their lead with a bullet header from a Fumiya Kogure free-kick.

But a minute before the half-hour mark, Balestier were gifted the perfect opportunity to equalise when Keegan Linderboom’s attempted cross was handled inside the area by Jufri Taha.

Referee Nathan Chan had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, paving the way for Huzaifah to equalise as he sent Zainol Gulam the wrong way from the spot.

Still, Geylang continued to look the likelier of the two sides to score again and a sublime freekick from the edge of the box by Kogure was only inches over.

The contest panned out in similar fashion after the break although as the half wore on, Balestier did show greater urgency in pushing forward.

Nonetheless, it was Geylang who found the go-ahead goal courtesy of Ichikawa, who showed great determination to climb highest amidst a sea of players to meet Kogure’s corner and bullet a header past Zaiful.

The hosts did have a couple of final chances to salvage a share of the spoils right at the death, but Ichikawa popped up to hack off the line after Zainol spilled a catch before the woodwork denied another attempt as the Eagles held on for a gritty win.

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “Of course, it wasn’t ideal to go 1-0 down so early and Geylang were causing us problems with their quick counter-attacks. But we came back and equalised and then we started the second half well. But we then conceded from a corner. Even then, we had a few chances right at the end but one was cleared off the line while the other hit the post. So we really had no luck but we just have to move on. Of course, we deserved at least a point but we’ll come back stronger from this. The boys are working very hard and maybe it’s just about scoring more goals.”

Geylang defender Jufri Taha: “It’s good to get back to winning ways. After the poor start to the season, we started getting some good results and the momentum was there so it was important to keep going. It feels like our hard work is starting to pay off and, even at the start of the year, we always had the self-belief. So to start getting some wins on the board feels like a long time coming. Yes, we had a few nervy moments at the end but I think we can be happy with the way we defended for the whole 90 minutes, getting those crucial touches at the moment that went a long way in this prize.”

Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK)(C), Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Nurullah Hussein, Sufianto Salleh (Ahmad Syahir 76′), Huzaifah Aziz, Fariz Faizal, Khairuddin Omar (Hazzuwan Halim 51′), Vedran Mesec, Noor Akid Nordin (Afiq Salman Tan 74′), Keegan Linderboom.
Unused subs: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Khalili Khalif, Akbar Shah, Daniel Hazreel.

Geylang: Zainol Gulam (GK), Darren Teh, Jufri Taha, Zulfadli Zainal, Ryan Syaffiq, Yuki Ichikawa (C), Fuad Ramli (Azhar Sairudin 62′), Yeo Hai Ngee (Ryson Yap 69′), Fumiya Kogure, Fairoz Hasan (Noor Ariff 90’+2), Shawal Anuar.
Unused subs: Basil Chan (GK), Sadiq Rahim, Danish Irfan, Cameron Bell.

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