Eagles eager to take on high flyers

One would think that it is better to face a lowly ranked team rather than one of the established powers in the S-League but Geylang International coach Hasrin Jailani begs to differ.

The former national midfielder is instead relishing the prospect of facing league leaders Albirex Niigata and feels tonight's encounter at Jalan Besar will be advantageous for the Eagles.

"It doesn't mean that if a side are bottom, it'll be easy to play them," said Hasrin. "It's actually much harder to play against a bottom team, who'll play to their strengths.

"For me, playing against the top team will be much better because both teams will want to go and attack. It'll be an interesting game and also a very open one."

Fourth-placed Geylang, on 18 points, boast the league's third-best defensive record - conceding just 15 goals in 12 games. Only Albirex (6) and Tampines Rovers (13) have shipped in fewer.

Despite that, the Eagles will still have their hands full when they face the league's leading hitman Atsushi Kawata. The Japanese forward has scored in almost every game, with 10 strikes in 11 matches.

Wary of this threat, Hasrin said: "He was playing as a forward in the first round but now, I think he's more on the right. That is where we need to be more cautious and watch his late runs and set-piece plays.

"But it's not only about him. Albirex are about the whole team and they work very hard. They're a very well-disciplined side and we need to be careful."

Defender Faritz Hameed agreed with his 40-year-old boss, saying: "Every team has a good foreign striker and Atsushi is no different. We'll just treat him as per normal and keep a close eye on him."

Yogaraj Panditurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Eagles eager to take on high flyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe