Two years. 38 matches. One defeat.

After an historic 37-match unbeaten run, the Lion City Sailors Women’s team suffered their first-ever loss in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL), falling 2-1 to Geylang International at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Sunday (23 June) night.

It was a shock result that blew the WPL title race wide open, with Albirex Niigata (S) moving level on 21 points with the Sailors after their 6-0 thrashing of BG Tampines Rovers earlier in the evening.

Finally back on the pitch after a month-long mid-season break, Daniel Ong’s charges never really got going against the Eagles, whose gutsy and defiant display starkly contrasted with the Sailors’ uncharacteristically flat performance.

Nonetheless, it was the Sailors who fashioned the first real chance of the game in the 13th minute, with Nur Sarah Zu’risqha coming close to opening the scoring. Geylang goalkeeper Nur Alysha Nasrina, however, was able to make the save – one of many she would go on to make in the game – to keep her side level.

Just two minutes later, the Sailors thought they had made the breakthrough when Miray Altun’s corner was tapped home by Raeka Ee, but the goal was eventually chalked off for offside.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Geylang’s Farhanah Ruhaizat and Victoria Sarka were a constant menace to the Sailors’ defence – a portend of what was to come in the second half.

Ultimately, both teams were unable to find a breakthrough in the first half, marking only the second time this season that the Sailors failed to score in the opening 45 minutes.

Daniel believes the Sailors were unable to sufficiently threaten the Geylang goal due to the lack of movement in the final third.

“We struggled to identify gaps and create space for our players to make runs and receive passes,” explained the 35-year-old. “And when we did manage to do so, we failed to capitalise on those opportunities.”

The Sailors were punished for their sluggishness in the second half as Sarka scored twice in quick succession in the 70th and 73rd minute to hand Geylang a 2-0 lead. Incredibly, this was the first time the team have trailed by two goals since making their WPL bow since 2022.

The goals seemed to rouse the Sailors from their stupor, and they managed to claw a goal back in the 87th minute through Madison Telmer.

However, Madison’s goal proved to be too little, too late for the Sailors. Despite a late flurry of attacks in the dying minutes of the game, they were unable to find the crucial equaliser to extend their unbeaten run.

Reflecting on the frenetic end to the game, Madison said, “Things did get really hectic towards the end, and there were times when we needed to calm down and play the ball around a bit more. That’s something we’ll work on for future matches. It’s important to keep a level head in these kinds of situations.

“Nonetheless, we gave it our all to score another goal, so it was unfortunate that we couldn’t convert earlier.”

While the Sailors’ proud unbeaten streak has come to an end, Daniel insists that this setback will serve as a valuable lesson for his team.

“I feel this is a good wake-up call, and it has come at the right time as we prepare for the AFC Women’s Champions League,” Daniel elaborated. “I believe the players and the coaching staff will work harder together as a team and move on from this defeat.

“Nobody wants to lose, and all the players gave their very best until the final minute. No one is to blame, and we’ll all take it together as a team. We take each game one at a time.

“Having said that, all credit to Coach Ratna (Suffian) and his Geylang players. They were very organised and defended well as a team.”

The Sailors will look to recover from this setback as they face Tiong Bahru next on Saturday, 29 June at Choa Chu Kang.