Geylang International vs Home United: Eagles in need of a miracle
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Direct battle for the second and last AFC Cup qualifying spot.
Geylang International Form
- Hougang United 0-1 Geylang (S.League)
- Geylang 2-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang (S.League)
- Geylang 2-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 0-2 Geylang (S.League)
And then there were three. Now it is down to two for the fight to finish as the second-highest local team in order to qualify for the 2017 AFC Cup.
Geylang International's 1-0 victory at Hougang United last week did not just kept their continental hopes alive, but also extinguished the latter's dreams of making the tournament for the first time in their history.
However, the joy of that victory was slightly tempered by the fact Home United picked up a stunning 3-1 win against freshly-crowned S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S) on the same night.
Trailing the Protectors by three points and with an inferior goal difference, the Bedok-based club need to win by a five-goal margin to oust the latter in the two-way fight for qualification.
It is mathematically achievable, but logically almost unattainable. Things could get interesting, though, should the Eagles score two early goals in this much-anticipated clash.
Ironically, five was the number of goals that Home put past Geylang without reply in their last meeting, as they claimed a landslide win at Bedok in the League Cup group stages three months ago.
Regardless of who nails that final AFC Cup berth, these two sides should be lauded for getting their act together after their inconsistent form for the first two-thirds of the season.
Both have won four of their last five league games, collecting 12 points from a possible 15.
Home United Form
- Home 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
- Balestier Khalsa 0-5 Home (S.League)
- Home 5-2 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
- Brunei DPMM 3-1 Home (S.League)
- Home 1-0 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
Geylang have pretty much a full-strength squad to choose from, bar winger Gabriel Quak who remains a doubt after missing the Hougang game through injury.
It is a similar case for Home, with key centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim available again after making his long-awaited return from injury against Albirex.
Key Battle: Sahil Suhaimi vs Shahrin Saberin
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Struggling to hit form all year and with an unwanted statistic of a 10-match run without a goal previously, Singapore international Sahil has come up good at the business end of the season with three goals in his last four outings – all match-winning strikes.
Attempting to stop the in-form Geylang attacker in his tracks will be Home's young centre-back Shahrin.
The tough-tackling Singapore under-21 captain has enjoyed a good year at the heart of the Protectors' defence, starting in 16 out of 23 league matches.
Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani joked in his previous post-match press conference that he may have to resort to fielding just one defender and nine attackers in order to win this game by five goals.
Last Five Meetings
- Geylang 0-5 Home (League Cup, Jul '16)
- Home 1-2 Geylang (S.League, Jun '16)
- Geylang 2-2 Home (S.League, Apr '16)
- Geylang 2-1 Home (S.League, Oct '15)
- Home 0-1 Geylang (S.League, May '15)
On a more serious note, the former Singapore international will have to decide whether it is better to continue deploying Sahil and Amy Recha upfront, or reinstate Philippines hot-shot Mark Hartmann to the starting XI to form a three-pronged attack.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Home counterpart Aidil Sharin will bring back Abdil to partner Shahrin at the back, or continue fielding the less-heralded Haziq Azman.
Facts and Figures
- Geylang are unbeaten in their last five matches at Bedok, with their last loss there ironically being the 5-0 thrashing by Home in the League Cup.
- Geylang have not scored more than three goals in a match this season.
- Home last conceded five goals in a 5-2 loss to Albirex in June.
- Home have 15 different scorers this season, the most in the league.
Geylang will push hard to get goals in this game, but to win by a five-goal margin simply seems a step too far. The Eagles to win the battle 3-2 and Home to win the war for AFC Cup qualification.