Geylang Scraps Past Toothless Balestier

Photo: Christina Seah Rodrigues

Syamil Sapari
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

S.League (26 May 2017) - Geylang International ended their miserable run of form without a win in the last three games as they grabbed the bragging rights over a lacklustre Balestier Khalsa side at the Jalan Besar Stadium last evening with a 1-0 win. 

The encounter between the two sides started off in a cagey affair with both teams exchanging long balls in a scrappy attempt to find a breakthrough on the waterlogged pitch. 

Balestier continued to struggle in finding their rhythm as Geylang came close to scoring the opener when Amy Recha fired a shot which found the side of the net after the Tigers failed to clear from a corner ten minutes into the game. 

Ricardo Sendra piled on the pressure as he fired a low shot five minutes later after being put through on goal which Zaiful Nizam did brilliantly to keep out, diving to his bottom left to parry the shot out for a corner. 

Against the run of play, Balestier had their first decent chance in the game three minutes later as Raihan Rahman swung in a dangerous free-kick which his teammates failed to connect with, much to the relief of the Geylang defenders who were rooted to the spot.

Argentinian playmaker Sendra, who looked the likeliest to break the deadlock for the Eagles in the first-half finally found the net, scoring with a neat finish as he burst down the left wing after controlling a beautifully weighted through ball five minutes from half-time. 

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic made a substitute at half-time with Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit replacing Shah Hirul in a bid to turn the tide, and it seemed to work in the opening minutes of the second-half as the trailing team began as the brighter side between the two, showing clear intent to overturn the deficit with a series of build-up plays that were only met with ludicrous finishing.

Amy Recha was substituted by Anders Aplin in the 58th minute in a tactical move to counter Balestier’s building momentum from the second-half kickoff, as the Tigers dominated much of the proceedings, showing a contrasting performance in comparison to their insipid first-half.

Six minutes later, Yuki Ichikawa came close to scoring a potential goal of the season as he almost caught the Balestier custodian off guard with an ambitious 50-yard lob from the halfway line, with the shot just grazing the top of the bar.

Goalscorer Sendra glaringly missed an open opportunity four minutes later to net his second as he volleyed a shot wide from close range after a superb cross from Stanely Ng, who put in a scintillating performance on the wing throughout the whole game.

Singapore winger Gabriel Quak, who was brought on for Geylang to replace Shahfiq Ghani in the final ten minutes of the game, fired a shot to the side-netting after his Argentinian counterpart Sendra worked tirelessly to retrieve a ball from a misplaced Balestier pass in defence.

Geylang held on in the dying minutes of the game for the win, much to the dismay of the Balestier fans who saw their team put up a fighting performance right up to the final blow of the whistle. 

Balestier Khalsa Coach Marko Kraljevic expressed his frustrations as his team slumped yet to another defeat: “For me, it’s disappointing when we don’t shoot because in the first half statistics we have 0 shots (on target). This is my main concern because if you want to win, how are you going to do it without shooting? The final pass was also not good enough and we very seldom get behind them. Defensively, we work hard but overall we should do better.”

Young talisman Hanafi Akbar was an unused substitute in the game, and Kraljevic attributed this to a knee hiccup. “Hanafi had a bit of a problem with his knee, so I decided to rest him. He hasn’t been training for the last 3 days so I don’t think I should (start him) especially at Jalan Besar, where it can be tough (because of the pitch). This guy can do something excellent, yes, but I didn’t want to risk him.” 

With currently no strikers, many were curious on how Balestier will fare in the transfer window. “I’m not sure for this (on how they will deal in the transfer window) but I think after the Wednesday game (against Naga World), I will talk to the boss. I think we are not scoring goals and at the moment, we don’t have any strikers so we need do something about it. We are struggling so hopefully, we can change something but right now I can’t give you an answer (on transfers), so maybe next week,” said the 51 year old.

Geylang International Coach Hasrin Jailani was visibly impressed with his team performance as he commented on the win: “It’s a good 3 points because we haven’t been winning in the past few games. We wasted too many chances, but I feel the team performed well defensively and other than that it’s all about putting the ball in the net, which we did today.”

On whether substituting in Singapore international Gabriel Quak in the past few games instead of starting him was a tactical decision, Hasrin was quick to clarify: “I wanted to start him in today’s game, but he took his C (coaching) license on Monday and he hasn’t been in training so that’s why I didn’t start him. We don’t want to stop players from taking their coaching license, and the club has shown their support for the player’s decision as well.”

The win sees Geylang leapfrogging their Eastern rivals Hougang into fifth place, as another defeat for Balestier leaves them hanging in third from the bottom. 

Full-Time at Jalan Besar Stadium: S.League (26 May 2017): 

Balestier Khalsa - 0 
Geylang International - 1 

Scorers: Balestier Khalsa - N/A 
Geylang International - Ricardo Sendra 40’ 

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Ashrul Syafeeq, Ahmad Syahir, Shah Hirul (Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit 45’), Tajeli Salamat (Aung Kyaw Naing 67’), Raihan Rahman, Kyaw Zayar Win, Jonathan Tan (Fariz Faizal 75’), Hazzuwan Halim

Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari, Yuki Ichikawa, Faritz Hameed, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Isa Halim (C), Ricardo Sendra, Shahfiq Ghani (Gabriel Quak 80’), Safirul Sulaiman, Stanely Ng (Ashraf Razali 89’), Victor Coto, Amy Recha (Anders Aplin 58’)

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