SINGAPORE – Talk about deja vu for Noor Ali. In 2001, the Geylang United (now Geylang International) player was sent off in the Singapore Cup final as his team were thumped 8-0 by Home United.

Two decades later and now the Eagles head coach, he could only watch as his side lost 8-0 to Lion City Sailors (renamed from Home after the club was bought by billionaire Forrest Li) earlier this month in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).

That big defeat has heaped pressure on Noor Ali, 45, with Geylang struggling to replicate last season’s achievements.

The Eagles ended fourth last term and qualified for the AFC Cup for the first time since 2010. They have lost five of their seven SPL games this year and are sixth in the eight-team table, with some supporters critical of Noor Ali’s leadership.

A win on Sunday (April 25) against bottom side Young Lions, who are winless so far, will be crucial.

“This is part and parcel of the game,” Noor Ali said. “Of course, you don’t want any team to lose 8-0… the fans will be frustrated and people in the club will be frustrated.

“But the fact of the matter is that people will not look at what you have done for the last few years, but they will look at the current situation and make comments.

“It was the same thing as a player, I could have 20 good games, but the moment I have one bad game, the criticism will be there.

“I understand they are fans and that they are disappointed. I am disappointed too. But they must understand that I am on the training ground, seven days a week with the players, and I have a better understanding of what the situation is.

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“We are all working hard to improve the results.”

There have been mitigating circumstances. Injuries has meant their foreign players – Brazilian attacker Matheus Moresche, Dutch duo Sylvano Comvalius and Barry Maguire and Japanese defender Yuki Ichikawa – have yet to feature together in a single game.

Central midfielder Maguire missed five matches with a hamstring injury but returned in their last outing, a 3-2 defeat to Tampines Rovers on April 16. Moresche scored both Geylang’s goals in that game.

Noor Ali noted: “You can see in our last game, when we have some players back, you can see what we can do.

“I will put my hand and say I have done bad job if we had the same results with a full squad. But I have had too many injuries this season already. But it’s a long season ahead with so much to play for.

“When I was with Geylang in 2004 as a player, we did not do well in the league that season. But we recovered from that and went on to secure a place in the AFC cup semi finals.

“This year we have the Singapore Cup and AFC Cup to look forward to. The players and I will be working hard to ensure we can go on to have a good season despite the bad start.”

His opposite number Philippe Aw was wary of the wounded Eagles. The Young Lions coach said: “Maguire is back for them and we know he’s a key player for them. It will be a very tough match for us as they will want to clinch the three points.

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“We have to match their desire and show no fear.”



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