The Eagles notched a third win in four games after producing an incredible comeback to overturn a two-goal deficit and break Cheetahs hearts with a late winning goal
It was their “least best” performance since he took over, but Geylang International coach Jorg Steinebrunner couldn’t have been too disappointed with the result after their 3-2 win over Hougang United on Friday night.
The Eagles looked dead and buried as the Cheetahs led 2-0 with 15 minutes left, but two defensive lapses allowed them to draw level before Leonel Felice capped an incredible comeback with a stoppage-time winner.
It took Geylang long enough to make use of their one-man advantage after midfielder Azhar Sairudin was sent off in the first half, but Steinebrunner was delighted with the way his charges kept pressing on.
“We lost the ball unnecessarily and we were punished [for the two goals],” he admitted, before hailing the “family” spirit of his team.
“A family trusts each other, gives each other support when needed and that’s what we have done in training over the last three four weeks.
“The players’ heads didn’t go down, no one was scolding each other, they were encouraging each other. What pleased me in the last 15 minutes was that the team kept going even after the second goal.”
It was a dramatic turnaround indeed as Geylang had barely threatened opposing goalkeeper Nazri Sabri prior to their late heroics.
Brazilian striker Geison Moura poked home Azhar’s cross in the 21st minute to give Hougang the lead, before the latter was dismissed 13 minutes later for throwing a punch at Fabian Kwok. Despite that, Amin Nasir’s men remained comfortable in possession and deservedly extended their lead when substitute Fairoz Hasan took advantage of slack defending to dink a neat finish over Joey Sim.
But disaster struck 11 minutes later. Centre-back Igor Cerina miscued a clearance and the ball fell to Ridhuan Muhammad, whose shot took a deflection off the Croatian and beat Nazri.
Buoyed by the goal, Geylang upped the ante and suddenly, the flow of the game completely changed as they started to go at Hougang with renewed belief.
Their opponents were shaken and an abysmal miscommunication between left-back Wahyudi Wahid and Nazri saw both clash with each other while going for a loose ball, leaving Felice with the easy task of tapping it into an empty net.
The Argentinian striker then powered home a superb cross from Kwok in the third minute of added time to seal the fightback, leaving the Hougang players slumped on to the pitch at the final whistle.
Amin acknowledged the manner of the loss was “tough to swallow” as he rued his team’s defensive failings.
“I thought we could kill the game but credit to Geylang, they really came at us,” he said. “It was purely miscommunication and a defensive lapse that resulted in the second and third goal… we have to move on and learn from here.”
But the former Singapore international, whose team has surprised many with their good results so far this season, is confident his players can bounce back.
“They are full of character and I think we can [recover],” he stated. “We are quite alright for the beginning of this season compared to last year; it’s something for us to be proud of. We have worked very hard, we are in the top six now and I'm sure they are professional to accept this defeat and we look forward to the next game.”
For Steinebrunner, it was the third victory in four games since he took over from Vedhamuthu Kanan after three consecutive defeats – an unbeaten run that also includes a draw against Brunei DPMM. For some, that might constitute some sort of revival, but the 42-year-old insisted that they would continue to take things step-by-step.
“We haven’t achieved anything, we need to take it game by game,” he asserted.
“I think every game, in its own right, was a very important game and I think we learnt something; today we learnt that even when we don’t play well, we still can turn things on and come back from 2-0. If we maybe had lost the game against Courts Young Lions, we maybe wouldn’t have got the points here.
“We shouldn’t go out and say 'now we need to be in the top six'; it puts additional pressure on the players. I think we need to be humble, keep working hard and let other people do the talking.”