Ming-Hoa Early Exit
GeostarZ United FC's wait to ascend was once more extended, as they subccumb 4-1 to Grilled a season after a close 3-2 defeat at the hands of FC RaZer Infernus. Au-Yong Siu-Yue
was masterful making his home in the middle, notching a double to complement the one that Martinsson swiped in the opening nine minutes.
Fearing for Grilled's S-League status, the club's supporters turned out in force, and for once there was nary an empty seat to be seen in The Cooking Pot. An under-strength GeostarZ wobbled with their top midfielders in shaky form, as Swedish playmaker Patrik Andersson didn't look convincing playing in the hole behind feared goalpoacher Cai Jong-Seok. As expected, Khaleel Abdul Hujayrah was not passed fit to play, to Martinsson's delight. Aznan Noor Yadah
, back to the wide position that he excelled in not too long ago, threaded a snappy pass up to the Swede striker, who just beat S$10.75 million dollar Argentinean custodian Fabio Schelotto with his precision strike.
The Grilled of old began resurfacing, and Martinsson made it clear who was the boss with a tremendous curler from one end of the six-yard box to the far post. It was overkill though, so delightful was the lay-off from Langeland, who drew the defense to him before hocking the ball off. Au-Yong Siu-Yue
's contribution from the restart was perhaps a letdown, as GeostarZ's central defenders Brian Wichmann and Anders Öhin inadvertently blocked each other, allowing Siu-Yue to put the ball into goal.
Grilled hadn't had such a start against a high-level opponent for ages, and niggling flickers of doubt that the defence might fail against a GeostarZ comeback were snuffed out when GeostarZ's libero Huang Ming-Hoa was shockingly ejected the next minute. Apparently he had elbowed Nui Pakpao
while fighting for position, but on most days that would have been a yellow. Referee Sindhunath Bhatt was mobbed by the GeostarZ team, but refused to rescind his decision.
Ironically, GeostarZ tightened up their game and actually had Grilled on the backfoot for a time. Winger Le Cheuk-Man, one of the few Singaporeans with extensive overseas experience including a three-day stint at Swedish Cup winners fumpen, frightened Dewilde with his two-footedness. Cheuk-Man was no mean boot at corners either, zipping in a fierce low one that reserve defender Jin Koi-Yu put past Harlow with a well-timed diving header.
Koi-Yu shrunk in defence though, as the wily Ma Dai-Lin
went through him like water through a sieve at times. The outstanding Schelotto preserved GeostarZ's slender hopes as a flank-to-flank cross to Aznan Noor Yadah
was saved by Schelotto's expert backtracking.
Having only ten men afforded Grilled the luxury of employing a soak-and-strike strategy comfortably, as GeostarZ were forced to chase the game in the second half. The exertions contributed to Siu-Yue being able to break through the GeostarZ backline purely with his modest pace in the fifty-fifth minute. Schelotto got his fingers onto the first try, but it fell back into the path of Siu-Yue who barrelled it in unthinkingly.
Grilled's place in the S-League all but secured, the match cooled down noticeably, neither party being willing to risk their valuable players more than required. GeostarZ winger Ekenbo played on at a different level of intensity from the other players, and got carded for a tackle from behind on Dai-Lin. Jan Langeland
landed on his back after a hard but fair charge from Wichmann, but that was no excuse for him only managing to shake the goalposts when set up in a one-on-one by Martinsson, a sorry miss that led to some isolated booing from the expectant faithful.