Geylang held by DPMM, give up top spot in Singapore League Cup
Brunei DPMM FC sealed top spot in the Singapore League Cup Group B on Friday evening after coming from behind to force a 3-3 draw with Geylang International at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Although DPMM had taken the lead through Adi Said's 20th-minute opener, goals by Victor Coto, Ricardo Sendra and Taufiq Ghani looked to have been enough to secure the win for Geylang.
However, Steve Kean's charges refused to give in and hit back through strikes from Maududi Hilmi and Helmi Zambin. That proved enough to keep them above their opponents in top spot on goal difference.
The two teams entered Friday's clash with a place in the last four already secured after picking up a maximum six points from their opening two games.
Nonetheless, there was still incentive for both to go for the win to avoid meeting champions and S.League leaders Albirex Niigata (S) in the semis.
Still, Geylang coach Noor Ali did opt to give starts five of his Prime League youngsters. As expected, it was the Bruneian outfit who settled the quicker.
With 20 minutes on the clock, they broke the deadlock through a moment of brilliance from Adi.
Bringing down a diagonal ball on his chest, the 26-year-old coolly cut inside his opponent before floating an inch-perfect left-footed shot into the top corner.
Given the relative inexperience of the Geylang outfit, it would not have been a surprise had they been deflated after conceding the opener.
Instead, it took them just three minutes to equalise. Noor Ariff's lovely free kick from the left found Coto, who met it with a deft header past Mu'izzudin.
Adi then had a golden opportunity to restore his side's lead two minutes before half-time when a low cross by Shahrazen Said fell kindly at his feet. But he somehow dragged his shot wide of the near post, with plenty of the goal to aim for.
And, four minutes into the second half, that miss proved costly as the Eagles edged ahead, courtesy of an excellent effort by Sendra.
Pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box, the Argentinean instinctively fired away a snapshot on the volley. It caught out Mu'izzudin, looping over the keeper, before clipping the underside of the bar and landing over the line.
It could easily have been 3-1 two minutes before the hour mark when Ifwat Ismail forced his way through down the middle before playing in a rampaging Noor, only for him to poke wide after bursting into the box.
There was, however, no denying Geylang in the 67th minute. They were awarded a penalty after Rosmin Kamis was penalised for handball inside the area, paving the way for Taufiq to convert from the spot.
It was now DPMM's turn to be chasing the game and, to their credit, they were certainly up for the challenge.
Just two minutes later, Maududi helped them reduce the deficit with a volley from just inside the box that had Syazwan beaten all ends up.
The wind was now firmly in DPMM's sails. Shahrazen had a 25-yard piledriver brilliantly saved by Syazwan before Khairul Anwar wastefully blazed over from close range.
But, with six minutes remaining, the equaliser finally arrived for them in fortuitous fashion. A cross was cleared straight into Helmi, who knew little but was ultimately left celebrating a goal.
There was one final chance for Geylang to snatch maximum points with three minutes. Yuki Ichikawa, thrown up forward as an auxiliary striker, held up play well before laying the ball back to Noor.
He unleashed a shot with plenty of venom but Mu'izzudin produced an outstanding save to push it wide, ensuring his side were not handed their first defeat of the campaign.
DPMM, three-time League Cup champions, will now face Warriors FC in the last four, while Geylang will have to see off Albirex if they are to keep alive their hopes of winning their first piece of silverware since 2009.
In Friday's other Group B game, Balestier Khalsa condemned Tampines Rovers to bottom spot after goals from Fadli Kamis, Hazzuwan Halim and Aung Kyaw Naing gifted them a 3-0 triumph at Toa Payoh Stadium.
Brunei DPMM FC: Mu'izzudin Ismail, Haizul Rani Metusin, Hanif Hamir, Vincent Salas (Hazwan Hamzah 65'), Azwan Saleh, Nur Ikhwan Othman (Hendra Azam 65'), Rosmin Kamis, Adi Said, Maududi Hilmi (Helmi Zambin 70'), Khairul Anwar, Shahrazen Said
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Justin Sim, Yuki Ichikawa, Haziq Raheem (Anders Aplin 86'), Alfian Jamari, Taufiq Ghani (Nor Azli Yusoff 68'), Ricardo Sendra, Noor Ariff, Ifwat Ismail (Amy Recha 80'), Victor Coto
Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.