Last-gasp Rams end Geylang's top-six hopes

Geylang International's slim hopes of finishing inside the top six of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League were ended on Friday after they lost 2-1 to Woodlands Wellington.

Ihata tries to break free of Shahril's clutches.
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

Chang Jo-yoon handed the Rams a 29th-minute lead at the Jalan Besar Stadium when he applied the finishing touches to a sweeping counterattack, but Geylang pulled level six minutes after the break when Jozef Kaplan scored with a clinical header.

But in the final minute, Rosman Sulaiman stabbed home from close range to hand his side the victory and send them up to fifth in the table and, in the process, making it impossible for the Eagles to finish inside the top half as they are now seven points behind sixth-placed Home United with only two matches remaining in the second round.

However, while a season that promised so much has certainly not gone according to plan for Geylang, they certainly will not be ashamed of their display on Friday.

In what has been a campaign plagued with injury problems, one positive for the Eagles has been the success they have had in blooding youngsters, with the likes of Wahyudi Wahid, Taufiq Ghani and Khayrulhayat Jumat all showing promising signs.

The latter, in particular, has nailed down the centre-back spot for much of the year, but he did make an error that led to the game's first opening in the 15th minute, when he was caught in possession inside his own area by Theeraweekin Seehawong.

Thankfully for the Eagles, goalkeeper Takuma Ito was alert to the danger and raced out to bravely smother at the Thai midfielder's feet.

Four minutes later, Geylang had an excellent chance to take the lead when a deep corner by Jalal was met by Norihiro Kawakami at the far post and nodded back into the danger zone, but Wahyudi could only nod the ball wide after doing well to meet it.

But it was the Rams who were looking the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening exchanges and a minute before the half-hour mark, they broke the deadlock after a brilliant cross-field ball by Moon Soon-ho found Chang, who skipped inside Khayrulhayat before drilling one past Ito.

The same combination nearly worked again just five minutes later when Moon raced onto Theeraweein's visionary through-pass and crossed for Chang, only for the ex-Balestier Khalsa man to complete miskick on his left foot with only the keeper to beat.

But having being dominated by their opponents for much of the first half, Geylang came out from the break looking a determined side.

And just six minutes into the second half, they found the equaliser after Noor Ali cut inside his opponent down the left and floated an excellent cross to the back post, where Kaplan proceeded to send a header from an extremely acute angle past Yazid Yasin and into the bottom corner.

The strike was the tenth league goal in what has been a fine campaign for the Slovak, but he certainly should have added another seven minutes later.

Racing onto a defence-splitting pass by Stefan Milojevic, Noor raced through before unselfishly squaring the ball to the unmarked Kaplan, only for him to explicably blast wide with plenty of the goal to aim for.

Despite Geylang's increasing dominance, the designated visitors did look threatening on the counter and Ito had to be alert to keep out a blistering effort from Chang in the 68th minute, after the South Korean had raced onto Rosman's pass and fired away.

But 16 minutes from time, the complexion of the game changed when the Eagles were reduced to ten men after Noor was shown a red card for appearing to catch Ang Zhiwei with an elbow, an incident that was initially missed by referee Taqi Jahari but then brought to his attention by the fourth official.

With the numerical advantage in their favour, Woodlands regained control of the tie and began to push forward with increasing regularity but it looked as though they were going to be denied by Ito, who made a series of fine stops from close range to deny Chang, Moon and Fadhil Noh.

Nonetheless, just as the clock ticked into the final minute, the Rams found the breakthrough after Chang, pouncing on a loose ball just inside the box, lashed a shot towards goal, where it was met by Rosman and stabbed into the back of the net from four yards out.

While the result does mean Geylang have little to play for in the remainder of the season apart from aiming to better last term's third-from-bottom finish, they can certainly take heart in the improvement they have shown over the course of the campaign.

Geylang International: Takuma Ito, Wahyudi Wahid, Khayrulhayat Jumat, Norihiro Kawakami, Jalal, Basil Teo (Fuad Ramli 90'), Taufiq Ghani (Shotaro Ihata 40'), Noor Ali, Jozef Kaplan, Duncan Elias (Andrew Tan 46'), Stefan Milojevic.

Woodlands Wellington: Yazid Yasin, Shahril Alias, Shariff Samat, Rosman Sulaiman, Ang Zhiwei, Atsushi Shimono, Cho Sung-hwan, Taufiq Rahmat (Goh Swee Swee 63', Fadhil Noh 85'), Theeraweekin Seehawong, Moon Soon-ho, Chang Jo-yoon (Ridhwan Osman 90').

Image courtesy of Geylang International FC (VOXSPORTS)

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