The home side trailed by two goals but produced a stirring fightback in the second half to claim a share of the spoils against the visitors, who had a player sent offIt was a classic game of two halves at Bedok Stadium on Thursday night when Geylang International fought back from a two-goal deficit at half-time to snatch a point against visiting Balestier Khalsa, who were reduced to 10 men for the final 15 minutes and eventually had to be content with a 2-2 draw.
The Tigers were missing the suspended pair of playmakers, Park Kang Jin and Qiu Li, as well as their injured midfielder Tengku Mushadad and striker Patrick Paran, who was unavailable due to studies.
Geylang themselves were short-handed as defender Khayrulhayat Jumat and midfielder Yasir Hanapi were also out due to cards, along with long-term injury victims Stefan Milojevic, Shah Hirul and Shotaro Ihata.
The home side had no fewer than five Prime League players on their bench, while the visitors had three.
But if Geylang thought they’d be able to cash in on Balestier’s thinning ranks, they were to be rudely mistaken.
The Tigers absorbed some decent early pressure from Geylang, largely through the agency of skipper Jozef Kaplan, before opening the scoring against the run of play in the 18th minute through their own captain Paul Cunningham.
The hero of his team’s last match win over Tanjong Pagar United, and sporting a Petr Cech-style headwear, Cunningham again played the role of the arch villain up front.
He worried the Eagles’ defence all evening and notched the first goal with a header off a smart Ruhaizad Ismail cross from the right as the New Zealander was given all the time in the world to place his effort to perfection.
Later in the game Cunningham was to drop back into defence and discard his unwanted headgear, after Balestier midfielder Ridwan Jamil had been sent off by referee Yazeen Buhari in the 76th minute.
Before that, however, the Tigers had established a comfortable two-goal lead at half-time. A brilliantly executed individual 37th minute strike by Korean Kim Minho, who had spotted Geylang’s Japanese goalkeeper Takoma Ito well off his line and delivered a 30-yard screamer over his head and into the roof of the net, added to Cunningham’s earlier effort.
It was a different story in the second half though, even before the sending-off.
Geylang coach Vedhamuthu Kanan made two changes, bringing in former Tigers product, Andrew Tan and rookie Basil Teo in place of Jalal and Nurhazwan Norasikin.
Wahyudi Wahid pulled a goal back for Geylang in the 59th minute off a Khairulnizam Jumahat cross before Kaplan, the old master, snatched the equaliser four minutes from time with an opportunistic strike, as the Balestier defenders failed to size up the situation in a congested goalmouth.