Bravo Bounce Back
Tharmini Last Gasp
Operating without captain-goalie Ahmed Abed-Sulaiman
and with Dani Spirig
the latest to fall prey to the injury bug, Grilled nevertheless romped to three goals against seventh-placed BravoRavo and appeared to be heading for the points. Backup goalkeeper Hang Bao Tam's shortcomings were mercilessly exposed in the dying minutes, sadly, allowing the hosts to battle back for a draw.
Bao-Tam was given the nod on Saturday as Sulaiman failed his medical, leaving Grilled without three of their best men in the leadup. With only Simon available at forward for some weeks, Grilled settled for a 4-5-1 with Kek-Tjiang playing between the usual back three and the midfield.
Grilled started well for once and had a stroke of luck when the referee spotted Simon's wild shot brush off central defender Ng Meng Yeow's lower arm. It was a rather soft penalty to give, moreso as the attempt was nowhere on target, but Grilled weren't complaining. Sid took advantage of the situation to lash in his first league goal of the season from the spot.
The home side upped the ante with a few robust challenges, with the one by ex-U20 striker Zi Ko-yang on Dani Spirig
particularly heavy, warranting his yellow card. van Liere, back to his best, sped away to ram home a second, and things suddenly looked very bright for Grilled.
Grilled were left to rue Sulaiman's absence when Bao-Tam was indecisive in dealing with a cross from Yang Guo on the left, allowing a brave Ong Chuan Yi to get in between Grilled's centerbacks and head the ball in skilfully. Grilled's injury worries then worsened when Spirig felt the impact of cumulative tackles and signalled to be taken off, handing a starry-eyed Peter Fjällbratt
only his second S-League appearance following his substitution for van Liere in the season opener.
The teenaged Swedish No. 38 didn't take long to impress, as he zipped around with boundless zest and even dipped an expert lob over Tao Thye-Loy two minutes into the second half for his first career goal. Fjällbratt's celebrations were rather subdued, however, in keeping with his reserved personality.
The Birds must have been quietly confident of taking the match, being in possession of a two-goal advantage and still having the better of the game. Things continued on more or less an even keel until the 81st minute, when Jie Siong blew a half-chance that would have killed the game off. Overextended, Grilled were then caught by a lightning counterattack that ended with fullback Ng Meng Yeow racing the length of the pitch to walk the ball into the net.
While that wasn't Bao-Tam's fault, the veteran keeper knows that he will have to shoulder much of the blame for the equalising goal in injury time - there didn't seem to be much danger as 32 year-old Ahmad Tharmini bin Lamin held possession on the wings in an effort to bring his teammates into the game, and Sid was justified in standing off and allowing him to strike rather than risk him cutting inside the box.
bin Lamin's effort should have brought about a bread-and-butter save by the goalie, but Bao-Tam inexplicably let it slip beneath his hands to gift BravoRavo what may be a very significant point. Han Kok couldn't hide his disgust at this turn of events, and his feelings manifested themselves as a random rash challenge that got him a parting booking.