Home survive Geylang onslaught to seal AFC Cup qualifying spot

Geylang International won the battle 4-1, but it was Home United who won the war to finish as the second-highest local side to qualify for next season’s AFC Cup.  

Geylang put up a superb fight and even hit the woodwork three times in a game which was delayed by an hour due to inclement water, but they eventually fell two goals short of the five-goal winning margin needed for them to leapfrog Home to finish fourth.

If we can hit this form in the beginning, maybe we could get a better finish

- Hasrin Jailani

It was the Eagles’ fifth win in their last six games, leading coach Hasrin Jailani to lament that his side left it too late in the season to pick up their form.

“If we can hit this form in the beginning, maybe we could get a better finish,” he said in the post-match press conference.

“We came in with the mentality of trying to get five goals and had enough chances to score more than five, but maybe today was not our day. But congratulations to Home for getting the AFC Cup spot.”

Geylang started in an adventurous 3-4-3 formation to get the goals, with centre-back Yuki Ichikawa pushed up front to join Amy Recha and Mark Hartmann in attack and the Eagles broke the deadlock after just six minutes.

Philippines forward Hartmann lobbed Home goalkeeper Eko Pradana from inside his own half to put Geylang one up.

Home struggled to impose themselves on the game, with midfield destroyer Aqhari Abdullah carried off soon after due to a clash of heads.

The home side continued to dominate matters for the rest of the first half, with the best chance falling to Shawal Anuar on 30 minutes but the Singapore international could only smack his close-range shot against the left-hand post.

Ilso's equaliser only offered Home a brief respite

The first half only ended 1-0 to Geylang, but they almost made it two five minutes after the restart, with Hartmann’s 20-yard free-kick coming off the right-hand post.

They were made to pay almost immediately, with Home going on the counter from there before Danish hit man Ken Ilso slotted past the onrushing Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari from six yards out to pull Home level.

Despite the setback, Geylang kept up their spirits to continue their quest to get a five-goal victory.

They should have retaken the lead on 62 minutes when Sahil Suhaimi squared across the goalmouth for Shawal Anuar, but the latter somehow prodded over from two yards out.

Substitute Shahfiq Ghani would go on to show how it should be done seven minutes later by hammering home a stunning left-footer from 20 yards out, after getting to the end of Ichikawa’s half-cleared cross.

The woodwork would deny Geylang for the third time on the night in the 82nd minute, with Sahil’s snapshot from just outside the area coming off the outside of the left-hand post.

Nonetheless the Eagles kept pushing forward and made it 3-1 two minutes later, with effervescent winger Gabriel Quak rounding Eko to score after latching on to a long ball.

They got another one deep into injury time, with Daniel Bennett heading home Shahfiq’s cross after a short corner, but it proved to be too little too late for Geylang as Home sealed the second AFC Cup qualifying spot.

Despite that achievement, Protectors coach Aidil Sharin believes there’s “a lot of homework to be done” as they aim to finish even higher next season.

“I told them at half time ‘let’s play our football and not resort to pumping long balls’,” said the former national player. “Also we had our chances, but did not take them.

“I hope the players can learn from this and we want to improve for next season, even though we finish fourth. It has been an up-and-down season, but I’m glad they adapted well to my coaching (after taking over in late July).” 

Photos: FAS