Birds Claim Third
Grilled Birds confirmed their best placing in four seasons with an against-the-odds away win versus FC RaZer Infernus. Quah Han Kok
's 30th career goal, six minutes after Mun-Nee struck an equaliser for RaZer, put Grilled up to 21 points with two games remaining, leaving RaZer fourth on 13, with no hope of overhauling the Birds; League leaders Chemistry and Herron however are themselves nine points clear of Grilled, so Grilled will pocket the S$750 000 bonus for a third-place finish come what may.
With key central defender Anders Fredgård
suspended for the match, 38 year-old coach Luis Alcántara
took the calculated risk of playing himself, shifting wingback Sid to Fredgård's usual position. Though RaZer have not exactly been free-scoring this season, Alcántara's lack of pace was brutally exposed by German winger René Winckler, who gave him the run-around before laying off to ex-national striker Weng Shen. No spring chicken himself, Weng dispatched a very decent drive to hand RaZer the lead.
Grilled compensated by energetically hounding the ball, a strategy that appeared to take their old nemesis by surprise. Hidde van Liere
reprised his old role as head tormentor, with none able to stay with him as he went on a tour of the right flank with the ball at his feet. Having drawn three men to him, the Dutch wizard sent it to Paullin, whose laughable effort fortuitously met the mighty right boot of Kek-Tjiang, and hence into Jiao-Long's goal.
The travelling fans broke into impassioned chants of "Hat-trick, hat-trick, hat-trick Hidde"
, a staple in games against RaZer since the winger so magnificently took control of the second Singapore Cup finals between the duo. It was RaZer that responded more strongly, however, and they appeared more likely to score next when Grilled's main forward Dimitri Simon
exhibited an astonishing burst of acceleration to wedge himself between the covering fullbacks to put Grilled 2-1 up.
The half ended with Grilled still ahead, and Grilled maintained their pressing posture when the game restarted. The match resumed with the combative edge expected between the sides, and rather unusually yielded not a single card. Things never looked like getting out of hand, thanks to sensible refereeing.
Trouble brewed when Alcántara tried to signal for a stoppage while on the pitch, apparently unseen by any of the match officials as RaZer dutifully resumed the match with a long throw-in. Shen Mun-Nee, played onside by Bona, had a happy time making up ground on the left before neatly sidestepping a wary Bona and launching a beautiful effort inside Sulaiman's far post.
Sulaiman and company quickly had their coach and ex-captain under control, though the outraged Alcántara had parked himself uncomfortably closed to a linesman he felt was at fault. Common sense prevailed and the referee kept his cards in his pocket. Grilled had the last word, however, as Dani Spirig
drifted over to the right and delivered a cracking cross that Han Kok slid in from close range.