The blue-clad Joker 9 team eliminated Grilled Birds in the seventh round of the Singapore Cup as their Italian maestro Gianni Di Pietro got a top-notch hattrick that Grilled's best efforts could not best.
The celebrated Geylang club got off to a flier as Pietro followed up a fierce foray by Australian trainee Robert Courtman. Tuan-Mu clearly had not put the tramuatizing catastrophe at Winning Eleven on Sunday behind him, and he was fooled cleanly by the confident Pietro into a premature challenge. Pietro had more trouble with Harlow, but finally squeezed the ball in at the foot of the post.
Martinsson lifted the gloom off Grilled's fans with his quick reaction to a Zhan Ju-Hau
strike that bounced back off the crossbar. He caught the ball with his sole and pounded it right back past Duan Sie-Chye in the Joker 9 goal. Pietro struck again in the 34th with another marvellous run into the heart of the Grilled defence ending in a cheeky chip, only for Kek-Tjiang to reply with a late run into space to power a neat curler through a mass of defenders into goal.
Portuguese midfielder Eduardo José Castro da Silva played up to the Jokers' name as he made up for a marginal deficiency in skill with some crazy ideas. One of them almost gifted Joker 9 a soft goal as his rainbow kick dropped heavily to an unsuspecting Pietro, who didn't make full contact with it, letting the ball be caught by a relieved Clair Harlow
. Roel van der Hoeven was successful with his more orthodox creativity, as he cut a path inwards from the right wing all the way to the side of the six-yard box, where he chanced all on a cross-shot that landed in goal, to Harlow's horror.
Joker 9 had their precious lead with time running out, and they defended stoutly as Grilled saw their exit stare them bleakly in the face. Pietro, already a hero, built on that status as he hustled possession off Nui Pakpao
and made a beeline to goal. Harlow dived desperately at his feet, prepared to give the penalty, but Pietro was prepared and pulled the ball aside to knock it in for a clear goal. Although Martinsson scored a similar goal with five minutes remaining, Joker 9 had achieved enough to enter the eighth round as worthy competitors.