Ifwat Ismail returns to haunt Geylang with Young Lions equaliser

Ifwat Ismail struck late to deny his former club Geylang International FC their first win of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League as the Young Lions came from behind to record a 1-1 draw at Bedok Stadium on Wednesday night.

Shawal Anuar’s early strike looked to be enough for the Eagles to record three points but Ifwat – who came on in the 69th minute – popped up with the equaliser eight minutes from the end to break the hearts of the home fans.

Coming into the encounter on the back of a 5-0 drubbing by Albirex Niigata FC (S) slightly over a week ago, it took the hosts just eight minutes to open the scoring.

It was Shawal who latched onto Jufri Taha’s ball over the top and strode through on goal before finishing with aplomb past Young Lions custodian Hairul Syirhan.

Young Lions could have drawn level on 14 minutes, with Hami Syahin’s lob beating Zainol Gulam but the ball flew narrowly over and landed on the roof of the net.

They came close again just before the half-hour mark, as Rusyaidi Salime’s through pass found Zulqarnaen Suzliman but the latter could only fire straight at Zainol.

Naqiuddin would then spurn two opportunities to level matters thereafter. He was first denied by Zainol in a one-on-one in the 32nd minute before the 21-year-old poked over at the far post six minutes later.

After the break, Ikhsan Fandi fired a tame shot which Zainol dealt with easily in the 54th minute before Danish Irfan headed wide off Fumiya Kogure’s freekick delivery down the other end shortly after.

The Geylang defence had their hearts in their mouths in the 59th minute when Darren Teh’s headed clearance fell to Zulqarnaen who flashed one that went inches wide.

The visitors were then dealt a blow when centre-back Irfan Fandi had to be replaced after hurting himself and was replaced by R. Aaravin in the 68th minute.

Kogure’s set-piece prowess continued to cause problems for the Young Lions backline and it was from another of his free-kick delivery which Zulfadli Zainal Abidin nodded over from in the 69th minute.

Kogure could have put the game to bed with 13 minutes remaining, but volleyed straight at Hairul from point-blank after good work down the right from Shawal.

They were made to pay for that miss as substitute Ifwat fired a shot that Zainol – who had a good game prior – inexplicably made a hash of.

Joshua Pereira had one final chance to nick a late winner for Young Lions towards the end but Zainol was equal to it this time and tipped his effort over, as the spoils shared between the two sides.

With the result, Fandi Ahmad’s side remain in sixth with seven points from four games and will next host leaders Albirex next Wednesday.

Geylang meanwhile, stay rooted at the bottom with two points from seven games and will continue their search for their first victory when they take on another win-less side in Hougang United FC at Hougang on Saturday.

Geylang Head Coach Hirotaka Usui: “Of course, if we had gotten the second goal maybe it was easier to get the three points today… But I’m not going to blame the goalkeeper (for the mistake), because it is my responsibility (as the Head Coach).

“Young Lions showed good technique and have players with good ability. I’m definitely not satisfied with the result, because I wanted the win today. We will however learn from this and tell the players not to allow our opponents time and space in the box.”

Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “It was difficult for us to play at the Bedok Stadium today. You could see they didn’t want us to play but I changed things in the second-half where I switched the formation to a 4-3-3 and pressed their centre-backs who couldn’t pump the ball as much as much.

“The boys showed good fighting spirit and quick counter attacking, but we always (have a tendency) of starting late. We could have gotten the win at the end but all in all, it was a fair result because Geylang didn’t have good chances in this match either.”

Geylang: Zainol Gulam (GK), Darren Teh, Jufri Taha, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Danish Irfan (Yeo Hai Ngee 76’), Ryan Syaffiq, Yuki Ichikawa (C), Fuad Ramli (Cameron Bell 90’), Fairoz Hasan (Azhar Sairudin 85’), Shawal Anuar, Fumiya Kogure

Young Lions: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Prakash Raj, Irfan Fandi (R. Aaravin 68’), Taufiq Muqminin (C), Syahrul Sazali, Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Naufal Azman 79’), Rusyaidi Salime, Joshua Pereira, Naqiuddin Eunos (Ifwat Ismail 69’), Hami Syahin, Ikhsan Fandi