Geylang International and Warriors FC played out a 1-1 draw at the Bedok Stadium with goals from Jonathan Behe and Ryan Syaffiq.
Title-chasing Warriors FC were unable to get off to a winning start in their 2018 Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) opener as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Geylang International at Bedok Stadium on Wednesday night.
Returning French forward Jonathan Behe put the Warriors in the driving seat late in the first half, but Geylang fought back in the second half with Ryan Syaffiq coming off the bench to net the equaliser in the 78th minute.
Despite Zulfadli Zainal Abidin’s late dismissal, the Eagles held on for a valuable point under new Japanese coach Hirotaka Usui.
The first half was very much a scrappy one, with both sides understandably still trying to find their rhythm this early into the season.
Geylang could have gotten off to the best possible start in their first game back at Bedok since last April, but Singapore international Shawal Anuar lashed over from just outside the area on 11 minutes.
Warriors gradually settled in and got close on a couple of occasions, before breaking the deadlock eight minutes before half-time.
A Fadhil Noh corner caused mayhem in the Geylang six-yard box as Behe reacted quickest to thump home amidst a sea of bodies to put the away side a goal up.
The nine-time champions continued to dominate proceedings after the break, with Behe going on a good solo run before seeing his left-footed shot parried wide by Geylang goalkeeper Basil Musharraf Chan on 46 minutes.
All square at the Bedok Stadium as Geylang International FC opened their Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Warriors Football Club.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Wednesday, 4 April 2018
The 29-year-old should have netted his second on 67 minutes, but somehow fired wide of the left-hand post from eight yards out – leaving Warriors coach Mirko Grabovac in sheer disbelief as he lashed out at a water bottle on the touchline in disgust.
Surviving the let-off, Geylang grew in confidence in the dying stages and duly restored parity with just 12 minutes left on the clock.
Shawal did well to win the ball off Warriors captain Kento Fukuda initially, paving the way for left-back Zulfadli to whip a cross into the area. The ball found Syaffiq, who took a touch to steady himself before firing a sizzling left-footed grounder beyond Warriors stand-in custodian Fashah Iskandar.
The Eagles had to play out the final four minutes of regulation time with 10 men after Zulfadli was sent off for throwing an elbow at Ho Wai Loon, but almost grabbed a shock winner late on.
Japanese playmaker Fumiya Kogure’s free kick looked destined for the bottom right corner, before Fashah got down well to repel the effort as the final whistle soon sounded.
Eventually it was a morale-boosting point for Geylang as they go away to Our Tampines Hub to face Tampines Rovers in the Eastern Derby on Saturday. Meanwhile Warriors will regroup as they host Young Lions at Choa Chu Kang Stadium a day later.
What they said:
Geylang International Head Coach Hirotaka Usui: “For the first game, it’s important that we do not lose points so (getting) one is okay. For me, the mentality and fitness is very important. I see some of my national and national Under-23 players (being) very nervous in the beginning. Maybe five touches, four mistakes – how to play football like that?
“Second half, we played better and I’m happy that an Under-23 player scored the goal. He has been doing extra shooting practice in training. My target at Geylang is about development so I’m happy that SPL has introduced the rule for three Under-23 players to start every game.”
Warriors FC coach Mirko Grabovac: “It’s good to be back here after a long time and I was expecting more fans to come. I was very happy with the first half, but Geylang played very good in the second half.
“We had some chances and if we scored the second goal, we would have won the game. Jonathan looked disappointed with his miss and I hope he does better in the next game.”
Geylang International: Basil Musharraf Chan (GK), Anders Aplin (C), Jufri Taha, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Darren Teh, Umar Akhbar Ramle (Fairoz Hasan 55’), Yuki Ichikawa, Danish Irfan (Ryan Syaffiq 63’), Fumiya Kogure, Azhar Sairudin (Noor Ariff 78’), Shawal Anuar
Warriors FC: Fashah Iskandar (GK), Emmeric Ong, Kento Fukuda (C), Hafiz Sulaiman, Delwinder Singh, Ismadi Mukhtar, Poh Yi Feng, Ho Wai Loon, Fadhil Noh (Shamil Sharif 72’), Jonathan Behe, Nur Luqman ( Suria Prakash 46’)