SPL 2022: Geylang International 2-4 Hougang United

The Cheetahs keep AFC Cup qualification hopes alive with dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Eagles

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Singapore, 11 September 2022 - Hougang United recorded a crucial 4-2 victory over Geylang International on Sunday evening to keep their AFC Cup qualification hopes alive despite going two goals down in the opening 35 minutes.


Two well-worked corner kicks drew Hougang level by the 62nd minute, before the away side added two late goals for the all-important victory – closing the gap to fourth-placed Geylang to just one point.


Missing key defenders Anders Aplin to suspension and Lionel Tan to injury, Hougang head coach Clement Teo could only name seven out of nine substitutes.


Despite the defeat, Geylang remained in fourth position with a one-point advantage and superior goal difference to Tanjong Pagar United and Hougang both level on points in fifth and sixth respectively.


The third-best league finisher is guaranteed an AFC Cup qualification spot and the eventual fourth-placed team could potentially enter the tournament if either of the top three sides win the Singapore Cup – to be held after the conclusion of the league.


More match photos available in our photo album in the Sport Plus photo gallery here.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Geylang came into this fixture having won seven of their last ten matches, including an upset against reigning champions Lion City Sailors last weekend. Manager Noor Ali gave Hazzuwan Halim the nod upfront as club top scorer Sime Zuzul failed a late fitness test, whilst defender Abdil Qaiyyim was also recalled into the starting eleven as part of a trio of central defenders in a 3-5-2 system.


Hougang started with an unconventional centre-back pairing of the inexperienced Nazhiim Harman and veteran midfielder Fabian Kwok – both aged ten years apart – due to the defensive crisis. However, Singapore international midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin made his long-awaited return after being sidelined for weeks.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Geylang capitalised on a choppy start to proceedings on the seventh minute mark, when midfielder Umar Akhbar slotted home from close range after nifty footwork from right wing-back Ilhan Noor.


Hougang came agonizingly close to an equaliser just three minutes later as Geylang goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam was called into action. Midfielder Sahil Suhaimi’s dipping free-kick was tipped against the upright, before team-mate Shawal Anuar’s follow-up was heroically cleared off the line by Eagles defender Rio Sakuma.


Another golden opportunity went begging for the Cheetahs in the 25th minute, after forward Pedro Bortoluzo could only direct Shawal Anuar’s whipped cross narrowly over the crossbar.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


From the resulting play, a penalty claim for the home side was waved away by referee Abirani Naidu despite Hougang defender Muhaimin Suhaimi making an intentional attempt to restrict Hazzuwan Halim rushing towards a cross into the penalty box.


Against the run of play ten minutes later, Geylang doubled their lead via a deliberate set-piece. Attacker Vincent Bezecourt was left unmarked on the edge of the penalty box, allowing him to receive a short free-kick taken close to the corner flag. Defender Faizal Roslan reacted quickest to turn Bezecourt’s low drive into the bottom corner of the net.


Hougang would respond swiftly with another set-piece goal, this time from a corner kick. Bortoluzo rose highest to convert Shawal Anuar’s pin-point cross and give the away side a lifeline.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Right before the half-time whistle, controversy struck when goal scorer Bortoluzo appeared to have elbowed Geylang’s Abdil Qaiyyim in the face whilst contesting a lofted ball. The latter instinctively collapsed onto the ground writhing in pain, as coaching staff from the Eagles dugout vehemently protested towards surrounding match officials.


Referee Abirani Naidu paused to assess the situation before booking both Bortoluzo for dangerous play and coach Noor Ali for dissent.


Hougang clawed back from a two-goal deficit and drew level on the hour mark courtesy of another corner-kick situation. Substitute Andre Moritz bundled a loose ball into the net after the Geylang defence failed to deal with the initial cross.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Manager Noor Ali responded by bringing on right-back Tajeli Salamat and forward Fareez Farhan for Abdil Qaiyyim and Umar Akhbar, switching to a 4-4-2 formation with Hazzuwan Halim now operating from the flanks.


With both sides pushing for the winner in the closing stages, Hougang struck again in the 85th minute to cap-off a sensational comeback victory. Midfielder Kristijian Krajcek’s cross was turned in by an onrushing Shawal Anuar at the back post, sending the away fans into delirium.


Hougang piled onto the Eagles’ misery with a fourth goal late into injury time, as Krajcek scored from an indirect freekick awarded within the Geylang penalty box.


Speaking after the game, Hougang head coach Clement Teo praised his squad players stepping up in light of a defensive crisis.

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


“I need to believe in the players I signed to start in any game I require them to. This is about teamwork and the confidence of the players. We are happy with the win, but this is not the last game of the season. We need to keep going,” he said.


Geylang manager Noor Ali cut a forlorn figure following the defeat but acknowledged his side’s lack of quality.


“Even at 2-0 it was a bit worrying looking at the team performance especially missing Huzaifah (Aziz) and (Sime) Zuzul. We created our chances, but the quality of finishing made the difference. We just got to stay positive and look forward to the next game,” manager Noor Ali said.


Both coaches had differing views of the level of officiating on display.


Coach Clement Teo commented, “Referees are human beings, they make mistakes. Yes, I have screamed at them (referees), but once the final whistle has gone, we cannot change things. It’s a very fast-paced game and I think today’s officials tried their best. I will not criticize the standard of refereeing in Singapore because they have referee assessors to do that.”

PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Geylang head coach Noor Ali took a more critical stance.


“A lot of things need to be done in terms of officials’ decision making. It’s getting a bit ‘haywire’ at this point in time. I got my yellow card because my coaching team were all standing, and I don’t get how that becomes the head coach’s responsibility. We can’t put the blame on the officials when we lose but certain things could have been done better,” he added.


More match photos available in our photo album in the Sport Plus photo gallery here.


AIA Singapore Premier League 2022

Other Match Week 24 Results


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Fri, 9 September 2022, Jurong East Stadium


Tampines Rovers 2-1 Lion City Sailors

Sat, 10 September 2022, Our Tampines Hub


Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Young Lions

Sat, 10 September 2022, Jurong East Stadium


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