By Abhishek Mehrotra
Goals from Mislav Karoglan and Tatsuro Inui had put Richard Bok's men in the driver's seat in the sides' final match before a month-long break from league action, but a fortuitous goal from Geylang forward Mun Seung-man gave the beleaguered Eagles a chance to get back into the match and substitute Amy Recha pounced on a horrible Eddie Chang error 12 minuts from time to give his side a share of the spoils.
Both sides had made one change going into the game, with SAFFC coach Richard Bok bringing in striker Fazrul Nawaz in place of Hafsyar Farkhan and Geylang United boss V. Kanan starting Jalal in place of Salim Rahim.
The opening exchanges emphatically belonged to the visitors as SAFFC struggled to string together a single coherent move, and they could have gone up as early as the second minute when Josef Kaplan slid in a lovely through ball for Rizawan Abdullah, but with the Warriors' defence scrambling, Rizawan could only sidefoot it wide.
Mun was then given too much time to shoot from outside the area and Shahril had to be alert, diving low to his right to keep out the forward's drilled shot. Bok would have been a worried man - seeing his side being dominated at home by the league's basement boys, but he needn't have fretted as the Warriors scored from their first serious attack on the Eagles' goal in the 16th minute.
Erwan Gunawan, who had an outstanding night, held the ball up superbly at the edge of the opposition box before playing in the overlapping Fazrul on the left. The former Geylang man's first time centre found Karoglan unmarked five yards from goal and the Bosnian had an easy tap-in for his third goal in four games.
Karoglan could have had two soon after when Gunawan's cleared cross fell right at his feet 20 yards out, but this time Shahril Alias, who was partly at fault for leaving last year's leading league scorer unmarked for the opening goal, did superbly to charge down the forward's goal-bound shot.
SAFFC were gradually establishing a stranglehold on the game with Gunawan's virtuosity and Fazrul's energy. The Singapore international had a great chance to get on the scoresheet but miserably mistimed his standing header off a superb Noh Rahman delivery. Gunwan then skipped past three defenders only to see his ball in evade Fazrul by inches.
The Warriors had won their previous three games by a 1-0 scoreline, and it seemed like they'd end up with only one to show for their efforts yet again, given the chances they were passing up.
Inui though, had other ideas.
After Kaplan had fouled Zailan deep inside Geylang's half, the Warriors' number seven stepped up to stroke a beautiful curler into Yazid Yasin's right corner and double his side's lead a mere nine minutes after Karoglan had opened the scoring.
After their initial forays, the Eagles had barely offered any threat going forward and at the half hour mark the home side's defence would have been forgiven for anticipating yet another 45 minutes of football played without conceding. Perhaps that is what led to their undoing a minute later.
Mun, who had already fired a warning shot, was not closed down yet again, and this time the Warriors' defence was made to pay. Although the striker's intention seemed to be a cross for Rizawan, his ball in flew over the defence, skidded off the surface and found its way into the back of the net off Shahril's left post. It was a sloppy goal to concede and one that had Bok fuming with rage on the sideline.
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Inui tried to restore his side's two-goal cushion immediately, but his well-struck shot from distance was straight at Yazid before Kaplan almost helped his side equalise - brilliantly shrugging off the attentions of Zulfadli, only to see Rizawan go down in a tangle of his making in a bid to get to the square ball as the curtain came down on an exciting first half.
Even though it was Kanan's men who were behind, SAFFC were the ones who came out intent on attack after the break. With blue shirts crowding the Geylang area, Ishak Zainol almost put the ball into his own net when his attempt to clear Karoglan's centre cannoned off the crossbar after Gunawan had yet again bamboozled the Eagles' backline to play Karoglan in on the right.
Fazrul then took centrestage; a decent long-range shot that Yazid had to see all the way past his right post sandwiched between two headers that should at least have tested the keeper. The Warriors were looking more fluent than they had in the past two months and when Gunawan's swivel shot flashed past the left post on the hour mark, it seemed only a matter of time before they would score to ensure all three points.
It was not to be, as a piece of calamitous defending in the 78th minute allowed the Eagles to grab a barely-deserved equaliser. Jalal punted a hopeful long ball forward in search of Recha, but with Chang providing cover, there seemed no danger to the home side. However, Chang's woeful attempt to head back to Shahril met with nothing but thin air, allowing Recha to nip ahead of the defender and plant the ball coolly past the SAFFC custodian and into the net.
Having nicked a winner in the dying moments of their last two encounters, SAFFC were expected to lay siege to Geylang's goal in the final ten minutes but despite pouring forward they failed to carve out any clear openings.
In fact, it was Geylang who could have carved out an improbable win - with Michael King, so impressive in the 2-0 loss to Harimau Muda last week, tormenting Zulfadli on the right before letting fly with a left-footed shot that only just zipped past the post as the referee blew for full-time, ensuring both sides would go into their respective RHB Singapore Cup fixtures next week filled with contrasting emotions.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Noh Rahman, Daniel Bennett, Eddie Chang, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Erwan Gunawan, Fazrul Nawaz, Mislav Karoglan
Subs: Hafsyar Farkhan for Erwan Gunwan (65')
Goals: Mislav Karoglan (16'), Tatsuro Inui (25')
Geylang United: Yazid Yasin, Shahril Alias, Syed Fadhil, Ishak Zainol, Jalal, Rhema Obed, Ang Zhiwei, Michael King, Jozef Kaplan, Mun Seung-man, Rizawan Abdullah
Subs: Amy Recha for Rizawan Abdullah (72'), Mubarak Ahmad for Ang Zhiwei (87'), Nurhuzwan Nor for Jalal (90+3')
Goals: Mun Seung-man (31'), Amy Recha (78')
Yellow Cards: Ishak Zainol (54')