The second-placed title challengers failed to break the deadlock against their resolute opponents as they were held to a third draw in four gamesMohd Noor Ali took some persuading to come out of retirement and help his club Geylang International complete the numbers against Albirex Niigata (Singapore) after the team had suffered a string of injuries over the last few weeks.
The 38-year-old strapped on his boots and rolled back the years as he patrolled both wings, with his Eagles side emerging with great credit as well a point after a 0-0 draw at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night.
Second-placed Albirex have had a lean time of things lately and the last thing they wanted was to see lowly Geylang escape with a point, when they themselves needed all three to maintain their challenge against competition leaders Tampines Rovers.
On three occasions at least, the visitors almost struck the winning goal but by the finish neither side’s defence had been breached.
Yasir Hanapi, Geylang captain for the day in place of the suspended Jozef Kaplan, had two great opportunities but squandered them both.
Kaplan’s absence and the below-par form of Geylang’s other star man Stefan Milojevic meant that the experienced Yasir and seasoned campaigners Jalal and Noor Ali needed to step up.
It was Jalal who threaded through a good pass for Yasir after only five minutes but Albirex goalkeeper Hiroaki Hara was able to deny the winger's tame effort.
There was to be a similar moment in the second half as substitute Shotaro Ihata did the spade work this time, only for Yasir to fire well over the bar in the 66th minute.
Ihata, who came on in the 57th minute for defender Khayrulhayat Jumat, gave his former club a torrid time and almost scored the winner in the 79th minute when his volleyed effort resulted in the ball rolling along the crossbar before being cleared.
The Japanese striker also had a header that Hara barely claimed at the base of his post.
Albirex had their chances, with angled shots from Itsuki Yamada, Bruno Castanheira and Shingo Suzuki all missing the target.
Perhaps the best chance for the home side came in the 85th minute after former White Swans defender Norihiro Kawakami handled the ball inches outside the penalty area.
The free-kick, coming so late in the game, looked ominous for Geylang but their well-positioned wall was strong enough to thwart the ambitions of Suzuki, whose shot cannoned into a sea of defenders’ legs.
It was definitely a point earned by Geylang and probably two dropped by the White Swans, frustratingly for their coach Koichi Sugiyama as they stumbled to a third draw in four games.