An extraordinary comeback in the final eight minutes got Grilled Birds three points which they so desperately needed, and catapulted them all the way from the bottom of the S-League to the top half of the table. The club formerly known as Winning Eleven looked to have wrapped matters up with a Nikos Avramidis smash-and-grab raid on the half-hour, but wily old Martinsson poached one back in the 82nd before Dani Spirig
made the most of the last real chance of the game.
Having just survived FMA Utd's challenge, Grilled were not in the best shape to host the rebranded Retired Eleven. In spite of the name change, Retired Eleven were still a big draw for the denizens of the West, who were spoilt for choice with several clubs in the region getting to the S-League. Hidde van Liere
was still doubtful, and in the end was sent to the directors' box with Lee Jie Siong
remaining on the right flank.
Retired Eleven brought back former Grilled champion Au-Yong Siu-Yue to warm applause, pairing him with Markus Hultander and player-coach Mathias Jacobsson in midfield. Problematically for Grilled, they have been in the form of their lives, putting Codingin Football Club aside 3-1 in their last league match. With their stout defence also impeccable, Retired Eleven's major weakness lay on the left and in attack, where Arvo Myllykoski and local lad Gao Po sun looked out of place.Lorenz Paullin
might have sent Grilled ahead after just two minutes, but the short corner zipped in by Kek-Tjiang and brought down nicely by Jie Siong was driven into the upright by the Swedish attacking midfielder. Retired Eleven then took over for most of the half, thanks in large part to the imposing Siu-Yue, who showed Han Kok just how much more he had to learn. A sublime pass set Yin Van-Phuoc free, and the winger responded with an absolute flier that breezed just over the bar.
Grilled survived a scare as David Ashworth's snap shot after Bona hesitated to clear was smothered by Sulaiman, but fell prey to Po sun's speed in the 30th minute. The rather one-dimensional Retired Eleven player used that very dimension to great effect against Fredgård, who failed to get him offside and soon found himself behind. Bona kept close to Avramidis, who was the obvious target, but he couldn't stop the Greek legend from creating a metre of space to take his shot, which unerringly drifted into the far corner.
That at least enlivened Grilled, and Dani Spirig
picked out the unmarked Dimitri Simon
in Retired Eleven's penalty area soon thereafter. Sadly, Simon was hardly faster to react, and could only gape as his instinctive first touch directed the ball straight to a thankful Guardiola. Grilled began clicking together, and Martinsson had some merit in his penalty claim after Tai Chan-San ran him to ground in search of the ball late in the half.
Avramidis might have put the game beyond reach when he dived in out of nowhere to send a solid header again at Sulaiman's far post, but the Egyptian ex-international was not about to be fooled twice, and acrobatically palmed it around for a corner. As the match progressed, Retired Eleven were more than happy to protect their slender advantage, but with their defence it appeared a wise choice as the minutes ticked by. Grilled did little better than a 70th minute half-chance when Simon broke in on the right, but Jie Siong's attempted through pass was cut out by Ashworth.
There appeared to be little hope left when Sid put in a rash tackle on Myllykoski, but it turned out a blessing in disguise as Retired Eleven's midfield inexplicably ventured up in search of a killer second goal. That left space for Han Kok to exploit when the clearance got to him, and the nippy playmaker traded passes with the equally pacy Paullin while pushing upfield. Seconds later, Simon capped the move with a bold dummy which left Martinsson to lob Guardiola on the fly.
A point seemed just reward for Grilled, but more joy was to come. With even the experienced Retired Eleven players looking slightly discouraged, Grilled eagerly went the direct route in search of a winner. They didn't have to wait long, as a hopeful goal kick bounced over an opposition defender and Spirig didn't hesitate to let loose from about five metres outside the box. His technique was immaculate, and Guardiola had no chance as it sailed gloriously into the net.