Experienced energetic Elephants evict Eagles

Geylang International struggled to a 2-0 loss against a visiting Pahang FA side on Tuesday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium. The Malaysians were faster, more incisive, and stronger than their hosts throughout. Only a determined defensive performance in the first half, anchored by Yuki Ichikawa and Anders Aplin, made the margin a respectable one.

The guests began with much enthusiasm, earning a corner as early as the seventh minute. That was cleared by the massed Eagles defence, but a short while later, Harimau Muda 'A' old boy Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria made it past captain Nor Azli Yusoff to cause another scare for the boys in green.

Playing behind a highly mobile forward trio of Kogileswaran Raj, Matheus Alves, and Mohamadou Sumareh, Wan Zaharulnizam would engineer several raids for Pahang FA alongside midfield partners Yamil Romero and Joseph Kalang Tie.

For most of the first half, the Eagles were on the back foot, and seldom looked to threaten. When Singapore international Gabriel Quak got the ball on the wing he was often quickly shut down by a wall of yellow.

One such attack in the 21st minute was countered at pace by Pahang, with winger Faisal Rosli lurking ominously in space on the left. Ichikawa was forced to put the ball behind for a corner, which Syazwan Buhari was thankfully able to grab.

Syazwan's biggest contribution was a reflex save on the half hour, as Alves got free of Ichikawa just long enough to make a shot. Shortly after, he would get a knock as he plucked the ball away from Sumareh, and Geylang head coach Noor Ali would take Syazwan off at the break.

So the circling Eagles kept the Elephants to a 0-0 at the break, and both teams made some changes at half-time. Aplin would take Al-Qaasimy Rahman's place wide on the left, and Isa Halim was brought on to marshal the midfield, next to Coto and Noor Ariff.

Geylang began the second half on a brighter note, pushing forward in attack, as young Ifwat Ismail joined the fray. Suddenly, Geylang looked to be back in with a shout.

On 51 minutes, however, Pahang left winger Christie Jayaseelan drifted unmarked into the box. He nodded home a Romero cross from the right to put the Elephants ahead 1-0.

As Geylang sought the equaliser, Pahang would counter through Jayaseelan on the left, and Sumareh would often move into space on the other side. But the Eagles were compact enough to cut off the supply, forcing errors in the Pahang buildup to prevent any danger.

Jayaseelan struck again late in the game to seal the win when Geylang retreated from another frustrated attack. Outfoxing the young Ahmad Zaki, the 31-year-old winger made his way into the box, then stepped around Prime League keeper, Syed Syazwan to make it 2-0 with eight minutes left.

Upbeat in defeat with development as priority

Noor Ali was upbeat about the experience, noting that the Prime League boys had an eye-opener trying to handle the pace and trickery of the visiting pros. Even veteran defender Yuki Ichikawa was kept busy all evening with the robustness of the Pahang front three, he said.

After the match, Noor Ali rushed to the airport to see his under-15 team fly to Japan for the Shinmai Cup. Before leaving, he mentioned that Geylang would have another Malaysian friendly soon, away to the Super League champions-elect Johor Darul Takzim FC.

The Eagles return to S.League action against Balestier Khalsa on September 9th, looking for a win to turn up the pressure against their next hosts Warriors FC.