SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Geylang International 0
Hougang United 3
Geylang International coach Hirotaka Usui lingered on the pitch a few minutes after his side's Singapore Premier League (SPL) game last night, and appeared deep in contemplation.
His side had been on a patchy run, winning five and losing six of their last 11 games. But the Japanese coach could hardly have foreseen what would transpire against bottom side Hougang United.
Luck completely deserted the Eagles as they crashed 3-0 at their Bedok Stadium home.
By the time the second half kicked off, Usui had been forced to use all three substitutions to replace injured players.
Then, seven minutes into the second half, the red mist descended on goalkeeper Basil Chan - who had replaced a crocked Zainol Gulam at half-time - and he was sent off after he appeared to throw a punch at an opponent.
Geylang defender Jufri Taha, who was a shot-stopper in his youth, manfully donned gloves and stepped in between the sticks.
But Hougang, who had led 1-0 thanks to Justin Hui's goal in the 36th minute, added two more strikes through Fareez Farhan (63rd minute) and Chang Jo-yoon (87th).
The win, which was only the Cheetahs' second all season (they beat Balestier Khalsa 1-0 on June 17), kept alive their hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon for the second time in four seasons.
Caretaker coach Clement Teo, whose side have bemoaned a lack of fortune all year, said: "It (luck) has happened at last. It feels good, but the players know they need to get back to work. There are still 18 points to play for."
A bemused Usui, meanwhile, said: "I don't want to say we were unlucky, but we were given a difficult situation and, as professionals, we must accept this.
"The next few games will not be easy with injuries and suspensions, but I don't want to think negatively.
"If our players are injured, that means a young player will get their slot in the first team. And I have confidence in them."
Despite the win, Hougang are still bottom of the nine-team SPL with 10 points from 18 games.
Geylang are just above them, with 17 points from 19 games. Each team play a total of 24 games this season.