S.League: Title hopefuls Home held to frustrating draw by Geylang
There was no winning start for traditional powerhouse Home United as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Geylang International in their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League opener at the Bedok Stadium on Tuesday evening.
New Danish forward Ken Ilsø Larsen's first-half strike was cancelled out by returning Geylang captain Jozef Kaplan's goal just after the break as both sides went home with a point apiece.
Having seen their title rivals -- Warriors FC, Brunei DPMM and Tampines Rovers -- pick up wins over the past couple of days, The Protectors were determined to go for the kill from the get-go but were limited to a couple of ambitious long-range efforts from Kamel Ramdani and Azhar Sairudin.
Geylang settled into the game gradually and had a couple of opportunities of their own, with Tatsuro Inui curling a freekick over while Bruno Castanheira lashed wide from 25 yards out.
The deadlock was eventually broken on 23 minutes as Home capitalized on a poor clearance from Geylang keeper Yazid Yasin. Winger Stanely Ng did well to tee up Ilsø, who shrugged off his marker with a sharp turn before unleashing an unerring shot from 20 yards out.
Stung by the setback, the Eagles went on the offensive and dominated the rest of the half but failed to convert their chances. Inui was unable to keep his freekick down once again while Kento Fukuda's close-range header failed to trouble Shahril Jantan in goal.
After the break, the Eagles carried where they left off and levelled the game within a minute of the restart. A long ball was flicked on by Castanheira into the path of Kaplan, who controlled the ball with his first touch before belting out a superb left-footed half-volley which flew past Shahril in a flash.
Home came roaring back after the goal but were unable to turn the ball in on several occasions. Ramdani fired over from close-range after being under pressure from Fukuda, before seeing his freekick crash off the post. Ilsø then squeezed past two Geylang defenders to go clear on goal before being denied by Yazid in the resulting one-on-one situation.
Both teams threw on their substitutes with 20 minutes to go and it was Home substitute Nur Hizami Salim who almost broke through while Fazli Ayob curled a spectacular 25-yard effort just wide,
Home could have stolen the victory right at the death when Yazid came out of his goal to challenge Hizami. However with the goal gaping, former LionsXII winger Fazli was only able to tap the ball agonisingly wide and the final whistle soon went off to signal a draw.
Speaking after the game, Home coach Philippe Aw lamented the missed opportunities which could have helped the side to keep pace with the likes of Brunei DPMM, Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC at the top of the table.
"It's disappointing that we could not get the all three points," he said. "We created so many chances in the second half, especially that last one which was a wide open goal. However I'm happy that my players gave their all till the end. Nonetheless, it's a long season ahead and to say that our title hopes is gone is a bit too far. There's games which the rest (of the title contenders) will drop points and we know we can get even better."
Meanwhile Geylang counterpart Jorg Steinebrunner was happy with the way his side came back after conceding the first goal.
"We could have done better in the first 15 minutes where there were too many long balls," he commented. "The passing was not like what we did in our last friendly games against Felda United and Semen Padang and we made Home look good. The goal we conceded was a gift but we did well to come back and scored a superb goal.
"We dominated the game but were unlucky not to score another goal. Overall I'm happy with the result and it's encouraging to see the boys put up this performance against a strong team like Home."
Geylang International Lineup: Yazid Yasin (GK), Yuki Ichikawa, Hafiz Osman, Kento Fukuda, Anaz Hadee (Syed Thaha 69'), Shah Hirul, Nor Azli Yusoff, Hafiz Nor (Shawal Anuar 80'), Tatsuro Inui, Jozef Kaplan (C), Bruno Castanheira.
Home United Lineup: Shahril Jantan (GK), Ang Zhiwei, Abdil Qaiyyim, Noh Rahman (C), Sirina Camara, Yasir Hanapi (Redzwan Atan 65'), Azhar Sairudin (Nur Hizami Salim 71'), Song Ui-Young, Kamel Ramdani, Stanely Ng (Fazli Ayob 80'), Ken Ilsø Larsen.