Battle for fourth hots up
Geylang aim for best league finish since 2003
|GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL||ALBIREX NIIGATA|
The Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title might have already been wrapped up by Albirex Niigata, but Geylang International will be playing for more than just pride when they take on the champions tomorrow.
The Eagles will go into the match at Jalan Besar Stadium knowing that they have a chance to finish in the top four for the first time in 14 years.
To do that, they need only a draw in their final fixture of the season to stave off the challenge of Warriors FC.
But, that doesn't mean they will sit back against Albirex and hope for the best.
For Geylang coach Noor Ali believes that would be tantamount to football suicide.
He said: "We are going out there to get a result, not to defend.
"You can't go out and try to play safe against Albirex. You need a 90-minute game plan.
"They've already scored nine goals past us, and in both games, we sat back, but we still got hit."
We’re not going to sit back and invite trouble this time. Geylang coach Noor Ali, on how he is approaching the game against Albirex Niigata
Geylang were beaten 4-0 by Albirex in The New Paper League Cup in July, then lost 5-0 to them in the league a month later.
They had also lost 1-0 to Albirex in their first league meeting of the season in May.
Geylang, currently fourth in the nine-team standings, are three points ahead of nearest rivals Warriors FC, who host Hougang United at the same time tomorrow.
Noor Ali, a former Singapore international, said: "Albirex tend to kill teams off in the first half an hour of the game, then just keep possession for the rest of the match.
"So, we're not going to let them do that to us - we're not going to sit back and invite trouble this time."
He also believes it is not in Albirex's make-up to take the game easy simply because they have already won the championship.
In fact, the Japanese outfit will be presented with the trophy at the stadium tomorrow.
Noor Ali said: "I don't think Albirex will play a weakened team even though they've already won the league. I'm sure they want to finish on a high, and lift the trophy with a win.
"Also (Albirex forward) Tsubasa Sano is aiming to get the top-scorer award, so he will need to go all out in this last game of the season.
"I'm sure his teammates will try to set him up."
The Albirex No. 9 has scored 23 league goals, and is second on the goalscorers' chart only to Home United forward Stipe Plazibat, who has two goals more.
The Croat will play on Saturday, in Home's final league fixture against Tampines Rovers.
But, no matter what happens tomorrow, Noor Ali believes that it has been a solid year for the Eagles.
The 42-year-old took charge of the first team during mid-season, after the departure of Hasrin Jailani.
Despite his determination to give raw talents a chance, the club's results haven't suffered.
Forward Ifwat Ismail and midfielder Noor Ariff are two players who have caught the eye, and could well earn a spot in the senior side next season.
Said Noor Ali: "We've achieved some good results and have also managed to develop some of the younger boys by giving them game time in the S.League.
"Finishing above Warriors and Hougang United - teams that have a better squad than we do - will be a good achievement for the boys."
- Garena Young Lions v Brunei DPMM (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Tampines Rovers v Home United (7.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
Warriors not raising white flag just yet
|WARRIORS FC||HOUGANG UNITED|
Warriors FC face an uphill task in their bid to pip Geylang International to fourth spot in their last match of the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League season tomorrow.
Not only do they have to beat Hougang United at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium and hope that the Eagles lose to Albirex Niigata in their corresponding fixture, they also need to ensure they win by a wide-enough margin.
The Warriors trail Geylang by three points, and have a goal difference of minus-three, compared to the Eagles' zero.
However, Warriors coach Razif Onn remains optimistic they can pull off the task.
"There is no choice but to go out and attack because, put it this way, there is no difference if we win by one goal or if we lose the match," Razif told The New Paper.
"We will make changes to go out with a more attacking team, and hope that Albirex put out their strongest team and try to beat Geylang."
With attacking players such as Shahril Ishak, Jordan Webb and Hafiz Nor in his ranks, he believes they have the firepower to overcome Hougang.
The two teams have met thrice this year, with each bagging a win and the other fixture ending in a draw.
Added Razif: "I don't doubt that my players can get the job done. We will go all out to win the game, but we cannot be slack at the back, or be complacent.
"We have several experienced players in the squad, but my concern is fitness. Some of the older players won't be able to last the game.
"But, I'm confident that if we play to the game plan, we'll get the result that we need."
Even if the Warriors fail in their final mission of the season, Razif still thinks that 2017 has been a good year for them.
Last season, Warriors finished seventh in a nine-team S.League with 28 points.
This time out, they have already amassed 33 points.
Said Razif: "Even if we don't manage to leapfrog Geylang into fourth spot, this will still be a good year.
"This year, we are runners-up in the The New Paper League Cup and we have already done better in the league compared to 2016.
"If we finish fourth, it will be an even greater improvement on last season."