Grilled's slim hopes of capturing the S-League title for the first time were all but extinguished at The Acidic City, as current holders Chemistry displayed great character to come from behind twice. Grilled appeared to have at least salvaged a draw, but a contested penalty in the final moments put the issue to rest.
Still smarting from their prior defeat despite outplaying Chemistry for long periods at home, Grilled felt it prudent to hole up in a defensive formation and strike when openings presented themselves. With Chemistry eager to attack, one may have expected good returns from this strategy, but somehow the Birds just could not seem to switch their mentality freely.
The match could not have began any brighter for the visitors, however. On their first attack, lone forward Rotteveel chose to send an early warning to Lantos, but his miscued shot took an odd bounce off the grass and landed squarely on Oh Dong Tse's hand. It was a cruel call to make but the referee granted the penalty, and Sid was around to lash it high down the middle.
Chemistry made up for that bit of bad luck swiftly, as they created havoc in the Grilled half with three breaking strikers. Their levelling goal came through a simple pullback by El Boubakri who had taken three defenders with him, leaving Niklasson with enough time to run in and pick his spot.
The pace, already frantic, somehow increased further as the teams searched for another decisive breakthrough. It came through the toes of Maikel Rotteveel
, who shook off his marker with a sudden change of direction and just about reached the angled ball from Han Kok. Lantos put out his hand a microsecond too late, as the ball rolled lazily under it across the line.
Again Chemistry tenaciously worked out an equaliser, as Grilled's advantage lasted no more than two minutes. Pressured by the vociferous home support after his early penalty decision, Lin Heen could do little other than award Chemistry the same when Han Lik-Tsun
's clearing header came back off the challenging Železnik and brushed off his arm. Železnik's stop during the run-up prompted Beckman into an early dive and allowed him to stroke cleanly into the other end of goal.
Grilled fared no better than in their last meeting with Chemistry, as promising build-ups were unceremoniously foiled by a combination of good individual mobility and tactical awareness of the opponent players. In fact, the 3-4-3 of the home team collapsed efficiently into a 5-4-1 whenever Grilled advanced, leaving Grilled's attackers with no space to exploit.
Payback came when ex-kaijam and national U-20 defender Heng Chang Chin seized upon an inspiration and sliced through a thin Grilled central defence. Leaving Nawaz Talib
behind with a completely unexpected pivot, Heng managed to take the ball all the way into the six-yard box as his forwards ran interference, and was precise with his placement beyond Beckman's reach.
It was Grilled's turn to chase a match in which they were never quite able to shake their adversaries off, and they appeared to have made it all square after Lee Jie Siong
cushioned the ball expertly to John MacKinnon
with his chest off Sid's corner. MacKinnon was just as taken aback as the opposition defenders at seeing the goal at his mercy, though, and Heng Chang Chin threw himself in the line of fire and deflected to the great acclaim of the fans.
Few could have done anything at all about Dani Spirig
's amazing run into the heart of the defence, as the Swiss pulled just about every flashy trick in the book at just the right instants to shred a previously formidable Chemistry rearguard. Ending his glorious dash with a 360-degree turn, Spirig confirmed his place on the weekly highlight reels with a cold-as-steel finish past a rooted Lantos.
The draw was about what Grilled deserved for their industry, but fate had a final say in the matter. Even the hosts looked as if they had settled for sharing the points, El Boubakri ran on the end of a seeking ball by Kum-Leong just on the edge of the Grilled area. Lik-Tsun seemed to have the Tunisian in his pocket, but El Boubakri suddenly went head over heels in front of a bemused Lik-Tsun.
Not quite knowing what to make of it, Lik-Tsun instinctively booted the ball away, and was horrified when the referee ran up pointing to the spot. Talib and Bona, who were sure that the penalty was completely undeserved, protested vigourously, but even the linesman somehow concurred with the referee's decision. The kick was taken about five minutes late, but it was all the same to Železnik who again undid Beckman to smother Grilled's title ambitions.