Japan-bound Anders Aplin failed to get his winning farewell at Bedok Stadium on Sunday evening after ten-man Geylang International FC fell 3-0 to Hougang United FC.
Justin Hui, Fareez Farhan and Chang Jo-yoon all found the back of the net as Hougang broke a five-game losing streak and recorded only their second win of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
Fresh from scoring his first-ever career goal, Geylang captain Aplin had rallied his troops to maintain their focus and secure a good result before leaving for a potential loan stint with Japanese outfit Matsumoto Yamaga.
However, bad luck and ill-discipline conspired to bring down the Eagles, who were forced to use all their substitutions before the second half as Fumiya Kogure, Ryson Yap and goalkeeper Zainol Gulam picked up knocks.
Zainol’s replacement, Basil Chan, was then sent off eight minutes after the restart, leaving defender Jufri Taha to go in goal for the remainder of the game with Hougang 1-0 up.
It was end-to-end stuff in the first half and Antoine Viterale teed up Muhaimin Suhaimin in the second minute, but the latter’s rasping drive from distance was parried by Zainol.
On eight minutes, Geylang should have gone in front after Ryan Syaffiq played in Fairoz Hasan. The striker rounded Zulfairuuz Rudy and went for goal, but Illyas Lee denied him with a goal-line clearance.
Two minutes later, Lee launched a long ball to Iqbal Hussain, who took the ball down and cracked a half volley that Zainol did well to turn away.
Viterale was next to miss a gilt-edged chance, but the Hougang forward made amends in the 36th minute. His precise cross from deep found Hui, who capped his late run with a composed first-time finish to break the deadlock.
There was still time for Geylang to come from behind, even though Zainol suffered a neck injury and had to make way for Chan during the interval.
However, their comeback hopes were ruined when Chan kicked out at Ashrul Syafeeq after both clashed in an aerial challenge, before landing a punch on Lee, who had tried to act as peacemaker.
The hosts still nearly equalised on the hour mark, with Fairoz heading just wide off Darren Teh’s cross.
It was a wake-ip call the Cheetahs heeded as Fareez doubled his side’s lead with a splendid goal on 63 minutes. Picking up Viterale’s pass, the forward somehow danced past three defenders and found the bottom left corner with the outside of his right boot.
Hougang continued to torment Geylang and eventually got their third on 87 minutes after spurning a few opportunities.
A minute after Jufri had tipped Chang’s shot onto the post, the South Korean beat the makeshift custodian at the second time of asking by heading in Iqbal Hussain’s cross at the far post.
Hougang will take a seven-day break before taking on Tampines Rovers FC at Our Tampines Hub, while Geylang will have 10 days to recharge their batteries before facing Home United FC at Bedok Stadium.
WHAT THEY SAID
Geylang Head Coach Hirotaka Usui: “Actually this is a first experience for me, having to make all my substitutions in the first half.
“The first injury came after 15 minutes, then Ryson’s after 30 minutes, so these were two very difficult situations for me. Then at half-time, Zainol said his neck was injured so it was dangerous for him and I had to use my last sub.
“But you know, before (we went down) 2-0, our attacking was good. So it is disappointing we could not do more when we were able to make chances. We were given a difficult situation today and we must accept it as professionals.
“Hougang wanted to win and get the three points so congratulations to them. We still have one more game against them so we will try to win in that game.”
Hougang Caretaker Head Coach Clement Teo: “This is the highest level of football in Singapore, if you are a man down, we have to take advantage and we did that.
“I am happy for the players; look, they worked hard and they have been doing what we have practicing since the past month or so. They are now getting the rewards for their hard work.
“Naturally, it’s never the end until you blow the final whistle. We still have got six more games and 18 points to fight for. We will need this winning mentality (in order to climb the table).
“It’s pure happiness to finally catch our break. It feels good, the players are on top of the world now. But it’s back to the work again, we have games against Tampines and Balestier and Brunei (DPMM FC), so the boys know we have to work harder.”
Geylang: Zainol Gulam (GK) (Basil Chan 46’), Anders Aplin (C), Jufri Taha, Zulfadli Zainal, Darren Teh, Ryan Syaffiq, Fumiya Kogure (Fuad Ramli 20’), Danish Irfan, Ryson Yap (Azhar Sairudin 39’), Yuki Ichikawa, Fairoz Hasan.
Unused subs: Yeo Hai Ngee, Sadiq Rahim, Cameron Bell, Ahmad Zaki.
Hougang: Zulfairuuz Rudy (GK), Ashrul Syafeeq, Syahiran Miswan (Syaqir Sulaiman 75′), Fareez Farhan, Antoine Viterale, Illyas Lee, Iqbal Hussain, Justin Hui (Nurhilmi Jasni 90′), Faiz Salleh (C), Muhaimin Suhaimi, Fazrul Nawaz (Chang Jo Yoon 46’).
Unused subs: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Asraf Zahid, Stanely Ng, Syukri Bashir.