Geylang going 'all out' in race to AFC Cup
Geylang coach Hasrin believes his side can still make a late charge into next season's AFC Cup
HOUGANG v GEYLANG INT'L
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
With just two games left in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season, they are three points off the pace and the lowest-ranked of the three teams still in the running for the second AFC Cup spot.
Geylang International are sixth in the league standings, one point behind Hougang United and three adrift of Home United.
The Protectors have the best goal difference of the lot, ahead of the Eagles and then the Cheetahs.
But Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani insists the Eagles can still make the Asian stage next season, because they still have matches against both their direct rivals.
Geylang visit Hougang Stadium tonight and then take on Home United next Tuesday.
Other than injured midfielder Gabriel Quak, Hasrin will have almost a full squad to pick from, and he said yesterday: "We believe it will go down to the wire and we will be going all out to win both matches.
"We cannot be waiting for favours elsewhere.
"I'm pleased with the results of our last four games. We won three and, even when we lost 1-0 to champions Albirex Niigata, we gave them a tough fight and made them work for it.
"Hougang are a very hardworking side who came from behind to beat us 3-1 the last time we met at the Hougang Stadium.
"We haven't been at the races in the past few seasons, but we are now in a position where we can get back to the AFC Cup, so I want the boys to make full use of the opportunity."
The Eagles were one of the most successful football clubs from the 1970s through to the 1990s, when they picked up a host of FAS Premier League titles.
They claimed the inaugural S.League title in 1996 and also lifted the title in 2001.
Their last appearance in the AFC Cup was in 2010, when they were eliminated after the group stage.
A late resurgence this season has revived hopes of a fourth-placed finish that would see them return to the continent's second-tier competition as the second-best local team, after Tampines Rovers.
However, Hougang will be no pushovers.
The fact that they are still in the hunt for an AFC Cup debut speaks volumes for the progress they have made under K Balagumaran, but the pressure to get the job done seems to have affected the team of late as they picked up just four points from their last four outings.
Balagumaran, who has no injury or suspension concerns, said: "Let's not forget that this team finished bottom last season, so the players have done a fantastic job.
"Geylang are a strong side who have six players called up for the national team and they have Shahfiq Ghani back from injury, but we have every reason to believe we can take them on.
"We have lost ground in the race, but it is still possible for us to get into the AFC Cup with two wins.
"I hope we can stay together for another season but, in any case, the players will want to play for better contracts, be it with Hougang or another team.
"Another reason to go all out has to be our magnificent fans. The Hools have been behind us and we want to show our appreciation with a committed display and three points in our last home game of the season."