Four For Martinsson
Amateur club North FC got an expected hiding from Grilled's reserves, exiting from the Singapore Cup on a 1-8 scoreline. For forward Iskandar Zulkernain Abu Salim, 35 and a taxi driver off the field, it was a day to remember as he challenged Grilled's defence - and won.
North FC tellingly didn't put any men across the half-way line despite kicking off, as they settled into a routine of swarming Grilled's attackers and clearing high and long. Fitness levels started to tell as twenty minutes went by, with some more rotund North FC players wilting appreciably. Martinsson did business as usual as he employed a stock feign to buy his way past Woo Kyung-Bae in the middle, putting it past He Nhon to start off.
North FC however was a mature team whom had played together for many a season, and they put into practice a rehearsed combination that Grilled failed to stop until it was too late. They had three players converge on Pakpao without warning, and a long pass into the vicinity sparked chaos as Pakpao got closed in upon. In a move of dubious legality, Iskandar Zulkernain Abu Salim charged headlong at the ball, stopping short just before collision and then continued his run. Harlow looked for support but it was not forthcoming, as his wingbacks were relishing their offensive duties. In the one-on-one, Iskandar used a good change of momentum to take the ball round Harlow to restore balance.
Grilled now were the team chasing the game, as they had the ball but didn't seem to be able to do anything with it. Martinsson was close when he turned on the style from the kick-off, out-dribbling the North FC defence, only for He Nhon to outdo himself with a terrific save. North FC were buoyed by their two heroes, and frustrated Grilled until the 36th minute, when Nui Pakpao
got hauled up for a cynical foul against winger Cheung Dae-jung.
The swap of the slightly-built Kwan Jet-Li for Dae-jung robbed North FC of some physical presence, and allowed Grilled to regroup. Martinsson emerged as the game-turner at this point, as he struck a hat-trick in three minutes, first from a workmanlike shot from inside the area, then a penalty as the referee finally penalised North FC for furtive holding in the box, and finally a well-hit free kick that He Nhon couldn't decide was going in or not.
North FC stuck to their guns as the break did them a world of good, and they kept Grilled at a standstill. By now they had abandoned any notions of victory, concentrating on maintaining a respectable result. Pakpao shattered the resistance with a calculated sprint with the two defenders in front of him otherwise occupied, and chipped He Nhon for the fifth goal.
This disheartened the fickle home crowd, but their shouts of derision didn't last as Rottman fell prey to a bit of gamesmanship and let Abu Salim free. Paullin, playing rightback, saved his countryman's bacon by winning the ball back. Stanton was a livewire down the left as he made his markers dance with some passionate forays that ended up empty, and finally got what he deserved with a cross on the touchline that Aznan Noor Yadah
had the presence of mind to walk into and score.
Old favourite Tim Hobson
then took centerstage with two nearly identical goals, as he went direct and chipped He Nhon twice in quick succession with customary efficiency. Upstart Rottman clearly has something to learn there, as he wasted his chance, sandwiched between the goals, by firing from outside when he was clear on goal.
Bruising central defender Mah Li-Hwa then confirmed Grilled fans' worst fear when he rather clumsily put himself into Au-Yong Siu-Yue
's path. A collective groan was heard as the once national prospect spiralled to the ground and hobbled off on his own accord. Li-Hwa looked appropriately chastened at his misdeed but still got his yellow card, not that it mattered much as Shen Kek-Tjiang
entered the field of play for the last, tame, nine minutes.