From The Dead
The Birds rescued themselves from a potentially embarrassing thrashing on home ground, as they recovered from going three down in the first twelve minutes, to salvaging a point in the 82nd minute as they fought out an exhilarating four-all draw against the team that never was.
Grilled probably didn't think they would miss Quah Han Kok
as much as they did, but their opposition's utter supremacy in the early minutes suggests that the mantle of box-to-box leader has passed from the ageing Kek-Tjiang to the golden boy of Grilled. Even then, they should have known of never's signature wide assaults, and not left Sunesson with so much space to do his work on the right.
never had a rather special system with both their strikers preferring to rush in from the sides, and the usually-solid central defence partnership of Fredgård and Bona found themselves effectively bypassed. The angle Sunesson took his shot would generally be regarded as tight, but that was usual practice for the wingman at heart; Suleiman was every bit as shocked as his defence, and was just a bit too late to save the shot.
Though the two West clubs are known to be on relatively friendly terms, some bad blood remained from the two sides' earlier meeting where Johan Davidsson sliced down Martinsson, resulting in the Swede talisman being out for two months. Although Davidsson didn't make it into the starting eleven this time round, the ugliness was provided by Sid, who challenged goalie Kalle Riis in a bid to level quickly. It didn't work, and Sid was lucky to escape with a caution.
The game paused for five minutes while Riis received treatment, and never continued pretty much as they began. A few minutes later, Spanish winger Ángel Ferrer crossed the ball from just over the halfway line, sparking a chase between Nilsson and Fredgård. Nilsson timed his running header perfectly to coincide with the drop of the ball, and Sulaiman was left shaking his head as the ball looped unstoppably into the top corner.
Worse was to come, as Nilsson again outran Fredgård from the kick-off, and when Bona moved over to help it was the simplest of side passes that left Sunesson free to sidefoot a third unopposed. It could have been an absolute humiliation, but Ferrer, Muris and Chun-fai conspired to miss a bagful of chances that could have handed a despondent Grilled their worst ever home defeat in the S-League.
Martinsson went to ground in the opposition box to earn Grilled a penalty, which Sid converted with Grilled's first shot on target all day. The goal was no indication of Grilled's overall play, however, which was still atrocious. It looked to be a grey second half for the Birds.
Grilled came out of the dressing room inspired to a man, though, with Hidde van Liere
again the conduit for flowing attacks. A technically wonderful combination between the mercurial Dutchman and the gifted Martinsson pulled Grilled to within one goal of never, as Hidde did a powerful cross with virtually no backlift, to be met by the alert blonde head of Martinsson.
Sulaiman had to stretch to keep out a stinging strike by Morariu from wide left, and a second dive later pulled a thigh muscle, forcing an obviously delighted Hang Bao-Tam
to taste S-League action. Fredgård meanwhile picked up his third yellow of the season, excusing himself from the trip to FC RaZer Infernus next Sunday.
Bao-Tam lasted fifteen minutes before letting in a goal, coming from Joakim Ovesson who danced past Sid to earn a shot which Bao-Tam should really have done better against. Grilled were staring at a two-goal deficit with not long to go, but Lee Jie Siong
took advantage of van Liere's magnetic ability to draw players to sneak in moments later and scrounge up a third for Grilled.
Seeing their lead threatened again, never redoubled their efforts to make use of the spaces opening up on Grilled's flanks, but a superb anticipatory tackle by Bona launched a direct attack with a long ball down the right. van Liere wasn't there this time, Martinsson was, and the old fox had saved his stamina for just this moment. Bringing the ball down with class, he made a beeline for goal, and elegantly passed the ball low into the far corner to even the honours.