Former champions Warriors FC and Geylang International shared the spoils after an exciting 1-1 draw in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Friday night.
Kento Fukuda opened the scoring for the Warriors early in the second-half, but Victor Coto scored 13 minutes from time to ensure Geylang went home with a point.
The Eagles created most of the early chances, but it was the Warriors who went the closest midway through the first-half, with Shahril Ishak’s free kick being turned around the post by Geylang goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
The home side built on that momentum and almost scored on 33 minutes. New recruit Joel Tshibamba’s header looked to be trickling into goal after he out-jumped Syazwan, but the effort came off the right-hand post before Geylang centre-back Yuki Ichikawa managed to clear.
The first half ended goalless, with Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani reacting by bringing on Gabriel Quak and Amy Recha for the jaded Min Thi Ha and Taufiq Ghani.
However, it was Warriors who broke the deadlock 10 minutes after the break with Fukuda thumping home from close range after Shahril’s free kick was flicked into his path by Baihakki Khaizan.
Razif Onn’s side could have doubled the advantage shortly after, but Hafiz Nor somehow volleyed wide from Jordan Webb’s teasing left-wing cross.
That stung Geylang into action and they should have equalised on 73 minutes, but Shawal Anuar’s spectacular overhead kick was ruled out by the assistant referee’s offside flag.
The Eagles refused to waver and eventually got their just rewards four minutes later.
Shawal flicked a long ball into the path of Costa Rican forward Victor Coto, who did the rest by checking inside his man before firing home a grounder past Warriors custodian Basil Chan.
Both sides went for the jugular in the final 10 minutes, with the game easily going either way.
On 86 minutes, Webb could have won the game for the Warriors after going on the clear via substitute Ridhuan Muhamad’s slide-rule pass but saw his shot parried wide by Syazwan.
A minute later, Quak nearly became the hero for the Eagles after rounding Chan, but contrived to fire wide of the left-hand post.
The match eventually ended as a draw, which was a fair reflection of the proceedings. Both sides are now locked on four points apiece, with Warriors a spot ahead of Geylang in third due to better goal difference.
Warriors FC Head Coach Razif Onn: “We did not start the game well; Geylang was pressing us high up the pitch and we had to resort to direct balls to the forwards. We were missing Shaiful Esah who can make the passes through.
“It was a high-intensity game and we were not able to react quick enough for Geylang’s equaliser. But to be fair to Geylang, they played very strong in the last 20 to 30 minutes. Gabriel and Amy came in and made a lot of difference to their attack.”
Geylang International Head Coach Hasrin Jailani: “We played well in the first half; the game plan was to press them in their own half and we did that very well. The first 15 minutes of the second half was not so good; Warriors were in control and scored, but their only threat was from set pieces.
“We changed Shawal into an attacking position after the goal and he did well. He has good spring for his height and gave Bai (Baihakki Khaizan) some problems in the air. Performance-wise, I’m very happy and we showed good team spirit to come back from a goal down.”
Warriors FC: Basil Chan (GK), Syaqir Sulaiman, Kento Fukuda, Joel Tshibamba, Jordan Webb, Baihakki Khaizan (C), Shahril Ishak (Fadhil Noh 85’), Hafiz Nor, Ang Zhi Wei, Firdaus Kasman (Ridhuan Muhamad 83’), Ho Wai Loon
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Anders Aplin, Yuki Ichikawa, Isa Halim (C), Faritz Hameed, Safirul Sulaiman, Victor Coto, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Shawal Anuar, Taufiq Ghani (Amy Recha 46’), Min Tin Ha (Gabriel Quak 46’)