Geylang International remained four points behind third-placed Brunei DPMM, after both sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Bedok Stadium on Thursday night.
Geylang took an early lead through Roberto Camarasa and looked good to claim a third 1-0 win in six matches, until DPMM grabbed a late equaliser through substitute Azwan Ali Rahman.
The Eagles – playing with the injured Mark Hartmann - got off to the best possible start with Spanish midfielder Camarasa nodding home Sahil Suhaimi’s inswinging corner after just five minutes.
Hasrin Jailani’s side continued to dominate proceedings for the rest of the first half, with Shawal Anuar, Sahil and Stanely Ng all spurning good opportunities.
It was a good comeback from us. We were very poor in the first half and made it easy for Geylang to play around.
In contrast, DPMM only had one shot on target for the entire 45 minutes. Coach Steve Kean reacted by throwing on Azwan Ali and Shahrazen Said for Maududi Hilmi and Adi Said for the second half, which immediately transformed the Wasps.
The defending champions gradually found more joy in the attacking third, with Rosmin Kamis and Hendra Azam both having decent tries from the edge of the box before eventually levelling matters in the 71st minute.
Both half-time substitutes combined well, with Shahrazen giving his marker the slip before squaring across goal for Azwan Ali to direct home a sweetly-struck shot from eight yards out.
DPMM almost nicked all three points nine minutes later when Brian McLean directed the ball goalwards after a goalmouth scramble, but Daniel Bennett was at the right place at the right time to sweep the ball off the line.
Both sides eventually had to settle for a point each, with Kean clearly the more satisfied of the two coaches.
“It was a good comeback from us,” said the former Blackburn Rovers man. “We were very poor in the first half and made it easy for Geylang to play around.
“We changed from a back five to four in the second half, which gave us an extra man in midfield to dictate play. The substitutes made a big difference; Azwan Ali came back into form and Jonny (Shahrazen) is always a handful with his power.”
“We had the better chances and we are slightly disappointed not to get the three points in the end.”
It (a top-three finish) is still on target. Now we need to start winning and we need maximum points from our last six games.
On the other hand, Geylang counterpart Hasrin lamented his side’s inability to keep the lead but remained defiant about their chances of finishing in the top three.
“We played very well in the first half,” said the former Singapore international. “We had two to three good chances which we should have put into the net.
“In the second half, we dipped and their goal came out of the blue. We could have defended better; we should have just cleared the ball away instead of letting it bobble around.
“It (a top-three finish) is still on target. Now we need to start winning and we need maximum points from our last six games. Our next game is against Albirex (Niigata (S)), but anything can happen.”