Match Previews

Geylang International vs Albirex Niigata (S): Can Eagles overturn deficit?

Singapore Cup QF second leg | Jalan Besar Stadium | Fri 1 Jul | 8.00pm 

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Geylang International’s do-or-die mission to stay in the Singapore Cup

The lowdown

Geylang form

  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (Singapore Cup)
  • Home United 1-2 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 1-2 Hougang United(S.League)
  • Warriors FC 2-0 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 2-1 Warriors FC (Singapore Cup)

Albirex form

  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (Singapore Cup)
  • Tampines Rovers 1-0 Albirex (S.League)
  • Albirex 5-2 Home United (S.League)
  • Hougang United 1-2 Albirex (S.League)
  • Albirex 3-2 Warriors FC (S.League)

The Eagles face the risk of a Singapore Cup quarter-final exit for the fourth consecutive year following their first-leg defeat on Tuesday.

A goal after 12 seconds from Masaya Jitozono and Naofumi Tanaka’s header eight minutes into the second half consigned the Bedok outfit to a 2-0 defeat.

In that match, they did show that they were able to match the defending cup champions in large parts of the game. What cost them the game however, was a lack of clear-cut opportunities created.

However, there’s cause for optimism still. After all, all three substitutes head coach Hasrin Jailani threw on, including Philippines international Mark Hartmann, made them more threatening in the attacking third and caused some worries for the White Swans.

Hasrin has expressed his belief in his side to turn the tie into their favour, but they will need to prevent Albirex from scoring either too early, or easy goals.

For Albirex, their first-leg victory can be considered a morale booster. After all, both Atsushi Kawata and Tatsuro Inui started the game from the bench.

Their replacements all performed admirably, and one would not blame them if they believe they have wrapped up the tie.

They have also not lost to the Eagles in all three prior meetings, winning two of the contest.

Playing on artificial pitch seems to bring the best out of them as well. In five matches at the Jalan Besar Stadium, they have won four times, while they hold a perfect record after seven games at the Jurong East Stadium.

They are definitely not short on confidence right now, and that should translate onto the pitch on Friday evening.

Team News

Taufiq Ghani and Shahfiq Ghani remain out with injuries for Geylang International. Apart from the duo, they have everyone available, including Mark Hartmann, who made his debut in the first leg.

Likewise for Albirex, they have a full squad to choose from upon.

Key Battle: Mark Hartmann vs Atsushi Shirota

Hartmann is in line for his first start on Friday

The former Portsmouth and Swindon Town youngster finally made his much-awaited debut in the first leg, and while he did not get onto the scoresheets, he instantly made the Eagles much more dangerous in the attacking third.

At 1.82 metres tall, he is capable of operating as a target man. But apart from that, he is also equally capable playing with the ball at his feet, and has the pace and skills to trouble defenders.

What makes him fearsome however, is his intelligence without the ball – getting into spaces with his off-the-ball movement is second nature to him.

Atsushi Shirota had a good game on Tuesday in the first leg, but even he had trouble coping with the Philippines international at times after he came on.

Still, Shirota has been one of the best defenders this season, and with Hartmann set to start the second leg, this will be an intriguing battle and it can potentially decide the tie.

The Coaches

It was quite a tactical battle on the touchlines in the first leg, with both coaches springing surprises.

Hasrin Jailani has had Geylang playing a fast-paced attacking 4-3-3 formation for much of this season, but lined up the Eagles in a 3-5-2 formation on Tuesday, with Al-Qaasimy Rahman and Faritz Hammed marauding the flanks.

But Albirex caught them by surprise by going for a conventional 4-5-1 instead, having used 3-5-2 to devastating effect in the league so far this year.

Geylang switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half as they chased the game, with Albirex struggling to get out of their half.

Expect both Hasrin and Naoki Naruo to continue their tactical battle for the second leg as they try to outwit each other.

Last Five meetings

  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (SG Cup, Jun’ 16)
  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (S.League, May’ 15)
  • Geylang 0-0 Albirex (S.League, Mar ’16)
  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (S.League, Oct ’15)
  • Geylang 0-2 Albirex (S.League, Aug ’15)

Facts and Figures

  • Albirex have not lost to Geylang in the last eight fixtures
  • Two of Masaya Jitozono’s three goals have come against the Eagles.
  • The last time Geylang progressed beyond the quarter-final stage of the Singapore Cup was in 2009, when they ended as the Cup winners.

FourFourTwo Prediction

It will be a close one. Geylang will want this badly, considering that it’s their only chance of qualifying for the AFC Cup this year, but Albirex under Naruo have become a tough side to beat. 1-1.

Photos: S.League