All Square At Winning
Astounding Lead Lost
Fresh off a hattrick in his last two games, Hobson lived his dream as he poached a truly opportunistic goal after just sixteen minutes against the runaway league leaders, but even coupled with a scrappy centre-forward's barrage on the half-hour by Chiew-Yen, it was not sufficient to wrest a win at the 50000-seater Winning Eleven Arena.
Hobson's star was finally overshadowed by the sleek running of Swedish journeyman playmaker Mats Kvarning, who hit two back for his new club in his competitive debut. Grilled started out visibly intimidated by the vocal home support, which culmulated in Ma Dai-Lin
losing his nerve in passing square across defence when a clearance was called for. Kvarning spotted the mistake in a flash, and only the alertness of Hang Bao-Tam
kept him from a hattrick.
Bao-Tam's block was played down the line by Pence, to a lurking Hobson who stabbed the ball goalwards. As it happened, Winning's keeper Van der Linde happened to advance a mite too far ahead, and one could hear the collective drawing in of breath as the movement of ball once again proved superior to the movement of a player.
Left-sided striker Mao Chiang-hua's departure soon after deprived Winning of some class on that flank, which made Grilled all the bolder in their forays. Chiew-Yen emerged from a mass of players to blast a forceful goal, and Grilled were looking at the hiterio unthinkable.
Winning Eleven, and in particular Kvarning, had other ideas. The 28-year old Kvarning hardly looked his age as he outfoxed Tuan-Mu by a smooth stepover move before beating Siu-Cheung, four years his junior, for pace and sidefooting into the net. Four minutes had barely passed before Kvarning again broke Grilled's defensive resolve by tipping a neat pass by teammate Thanh-Tuan over an embarrased Bao-Tam. It was a long five minutes to half-time for the Grilled backline.
Winning Eleven came out of the break displaying the pedigree that had set them in such good stead in the league, but negative tactics by Grilled cancelled out style as wingers Pence and Seng-kar moved inside to play the role of destroyers and Grilled swarmed the midfield. Hobson's aggressiveness upfront played a huge role in securing the draw, though as a consequence he was hobbling by the end of the match. Winning Eleven did stop some hearts when swift Swede Patrik Persson almost emulated his compatriot's endeavours, but his final effort was as disappointing as his dribbling was exhilirating.