Geylang United surpass all expectations by defeating Balestier Khalsa, but can find themselves somewhat lucky at the result
Geylang United looked by far to be the underdogs for this match but snatched an unexpected three points against second-placed Balestier Khalsa at home.
Defender Rhema Obed put the Eagles ahead in the ninth minute with a well-struck right-footed volley following a headed assist from midfielder Mun Seung Man.
The goal arrived somewhat against the run of play, with Balestier starting off as the more promising of the two teams. A goalmouth scramble in the Geylang penalty area in the opening ten minutes almost led to Balestier captain Paul Cunningham scoring. His effort, however, was blocked by a sea of defenders.
Within five minutes Balestier had an opportunity to equalise but Tengku Mushadad’s long-range effort bounced just wide of Geylang goalkeeper Yazid Yasin’s reach as well as the goalpost.
Geylang winger Michael King was lively throughout the game, and while his early runs came to naught, he eventually found himself at the end of a brilliant cross from Syed Fadhil. Fadhil’s cross on the right evaded the head of Jozef Kaplan, but found King on the left side of the penalty box and he made no mistake by slotting the ball into the bottom corner in the 20th minute.
Ang Zhiwei found himself in the middle of a controversy nine minutes later. Syed Thaha retaliated furiously by thrusting his studs in the face of Ang after the former Geylang midfielder was at the end of a poorly-timed challenge. Mohd Yazeen, the referee, sent Thaha off while Ang got away with a booking.
Despite the one-man disadvantage Balestier looked like they were on the ascendancy. The end of the first-half was marked by warning shots from Cunningham and midfielder Park Kang Jin.
After the break, Cunningham was asked by coach Darren Stewart to play as a third striker to support Tengku and Kim Minho, and Balestier began to look increasingly threatening. A cross in the 52nd minute found Cunningham, who headed to Park, but his shot was cleared by the Geylang defence.
Six minutes later Cunningham once again found himself at the centre of the attack. Park managed to evade three defenders with a quick turn, and his pass to substitute Patrick Paran, who replaced Ridwan Jamil, crossed to Cunningham who headed wide.
In one of the rare Geylang attacks in the second-half, Michael King’s cross met Mun Seung Man, whose shot was unfortunately too tame and was collected by Balestier goalkeeper Joey Sim in the 64th minute.
Things took a turn for the worse a few minutes later for Balestier after Kim Minho was forced to withdraw with a suspected fracture to his ankle. The striker had to be stretchered off and was replaced by Andrew Tan.
Balestier, however, continued to dominate in terms of possession and chances. Cunningham, especially, looked particularly threatening in his makeshift target man role, and came ever closer to reducing the deficit in the 77th minute although his effort just managed to hit the crossbar.
Cunningham was once again off-target just two minutes later. After meeting a cross from a corner with his head, he was unable to keep the ball low enough to score.
Balestier’s profligacy in front of goal was punished when Geylang made a good attack down the left flank. Rizawan Abdullah’s cross meeting Jozef Kaplan, whose low shot from outside the penalty box flew into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 in the 82nd minute.
Just over a minute later Geylang defender Shahril Alias and Cunningham went to the ground after a head-on collision with each other. While Shahril had to leave the pitch to receive treatment, leaving Geylang with ten men for the remainder of the match, Cunningham was fit enough to score a consolation goal for Balestier in injury time - a header from a Goran Subara corner.
Cunningham had a chance to score before the final whistle blew but his shot in the 93rd minute scraped the crossbar and bounced out, much to the disappointment of his vocal supporters in the grandstand, all dressed in Cunningham jerseys.
At the final whistle, a dominant Balestier performance went for nought, as they missed a lethal touch in front of goal. For Geylang, however, it would be a match that hopefully marks their turning point after four consecutive defeats.