By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
Reporting from the Bedok Stadium
Following a goalless first half at the Bedok Stadium, the visitors took the lead six minutes after the break through Mislav Karoglan, before goals from Tatsuro Inui and Shimpei Sakurada capped off an excellent evening for their side and handed a much-needed three points to under-pressure coach V. Selvaraj.
The result also came just four days after the Warriors threw away a two-goal lead to fall to a 4-2 defeat to Kitchee in the AFC Cup, and it seemed as though it might be another difficult night for them given they were without midfield general Kazuyuki Toda and first-choice goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.
However, they could have been ahead as early as the fifth minute as a corner was met by the imposing Marin Vidosevic but the defender’s attempt at the near post was woefully inaccurate. Inui then saw a free-kick clatter into the wall three minutes later in the first of many such opportunities for the Japanese winger.
Making his first start for the Choa Chu Kang outfit, Prakash Manikam was also an energetic presence down the left flank but his final delivery regularly failed to trouble the Geylang custodian.
For Geylang, captain Jozef Kaplan was their leading light and Vidosevic did well to dispossess the Slovakian when he was released in the box in the 19th minute. Two minutes later, the same player pounced on a loose clearance following a corner but blazed his shot way over.
At the half-hour mark, Prakash did manage to send a cross into the middle but Karoglan’s shot was met with a solid defensive block. The same duo combined three minutes later but the Bosnian’s half-volley from distance did not test Takuma Ito.
Geylang frontman Shotaro Ihata then responded for the home side with a fierce left-footed drive that Hyrulnizam Juma’at could only barely keep out with his feet. Had Kaplan been a fraction of a second quicker, he would have had an easy opportunity to bury the ball into the net but instead hacked down the nearest defender.
Right before halftime, the 27-year-old forward did a much better job with a thundering attempt from the edge of the box that was met with a finger-tip save by Hyrulnizam.
As the teams went into the break, it was clear that both sides could not muster together decent chances and the game looked set to be decided on a piece of individual brilliance by any of the marque players on the night.
Karoglan did just that in the 51st minute as a long clearance by Shi Jiayi reached the striker down the left flank, and he made no mistake with a cracking effort from the edge of the area that nestled into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season.
Buoyed by the opener, Warriors also upped their tempo and two minutes later, Karoglan was again in the thick of the action but missed with a shot on the volley down the right side.
In the 59th minute, Inui could have assisted a second as a dangerous free-kick from left missed everyone within the box and harmlessly went out for a goal kick.
The 23-year-old did not have to wait long to make an impact, however, as he showed a clean set of heels to dribble past three defenders and get into the box, somehow managing to direct a pass towards Karoglan. The ball was deflected back onto his path, however, and the former Albirex Niigata (S) player then sent in a powerful left-footed shot that even Ito got a hand to but failed to keep off the line.
Kaplan continued to give his all in a bid to wrest a goal back for his side but his free-kick in the 76th minute went well over the crossbar, much to the dismay of the home fans.
That miss proved costly three minutes later as Inui’s corner from the right was met with a header by Erwan Gunawan, and although Ito managed to keep it out, the ball fell nicely into Sakurada’s path and the midfielder was only too happy to hammer the ball in at the far post.
The game seemingly decided, the Warriors’ backline of Abdil Qaiyyim, Syed Fadhil, Vidosevic and Daniel Bennett held firm for the remainder of the game to preserve their first clean sheet of the season as well.
Warriors will now have a tough encounter against Tampines Rovers at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium next Thursday to look forward to but will be heartened by a workman-like performance that has seen them end a winless run of five games.
Geylang, on the other hand, remain rooted near the bottom of the table in 11th place and face an equally tricky encounter against Home United next Saturday at the Bedok Stadium.
Geylang International: Takuma Ito, Khayrulhayat Jumat, Delwinder Singh, Duncan Elias, Norihiro Kawakami, Yasir Hanapi, Fabian Kwok, Andrew Tan (Fuad Ramli 68'), Nurhazwan Norasikin, Shotaro Ihata, Jozef Kaplan.
Warriors FC: Hyrulnizan Juma'at, Abdil Qaiyyim, Syed Fadhil, Marin Vidosevic, Daniel Bennett, Shukor Zailan (Erwan Gunawan 46'), Tatsuro Inui (Yus Henzry 90'), Shimpei Sakurada, Prakash Manikam (Ruzaini Zainal 77'), Shi Jiayi, Mislav Karoglan.
Image courtesy of Warriors FC