The Fortress Pot
Clair Clean Sheet
Lightning struck twice as Grilled shared the points with six-time S-League champions Herron in a repeat of last season's surprise score. Ten of the eleven featuring on that famous day were picked again, with Rottman the extra man in defence for Hjortlind in attack. Herron had a full squad to choose from, and made two changes from the team that drew 2-all with Team Singapore last Sunday.
Against all odds Grilled poured forward vigourously from the whistle, as islandwide rain soaked the pitch. Grilled might have struck the opening blow as early as the fourth minute, when Aznan Noor Yadah
slithered through on Dean Blevins' outside and pumped the ball to the penalty area. It could have been anyone's in the treacherous conditions, but after a wild miskick by Martinsson, national goalie Abd Rauf Mohd Nadzir rushed out to slide it out.
Herron never lacked in teeth with formal international Gai Wai-Ming returning to the fold, crossing swords with the four-man Grilled backline confidently. Some half-chances went astray before local midfielder Ni Chik-Yan, who spent some seasons in Sweden, saw a break in the rearguard and broke through. Harlow appeared to have little hope as Chik-Yan bore down fully in control, but when the shot came Harlow made it look easy with a blinding lunge to his right.
The much-vaunted speed of Herron's forwards was not on display much in the heavy downpour, as Grilled's experienced defenders took every advantage the elements saw fit to grant them. Sticking as close as possible to Gai and Shu, they limited their ability to turn and accelerate. Without mobility in attack, Herron found it hard to manufacture anything.
The second half saw more of the same tactics, with Grilled not even gunning for victory. Kek-Tjiang enjoyed destroying play as he mopped up many passes before they reached the defence. Stanton pulled a muscle in the 53rd minute, and captain-manager Luis Alcántara
motioned for the nineteen year-old Paullin to make his league entrance. Paullin's first touch was a clearance into the clouds, a reflection of Grilled's intentions.
The bright spark of an intolerably dull contest came soon, as Paullin connected with a sweeping pass from Dai-Lin and breezed through the Herron defenders. He must have had visions of a miraculous S-League debut in his eyes when he approached Nadzir at full speed, but his stepover was expected and Nadzir dove to take the ball away. Paullin went to ground but was up and about immediately.
Towards the end, Herron redoubled their efforts in the knowledge that another draw would put their championship hopes in jeopardy. Grilled were determined to keep a point however, and with four players sharing the burden behind, were never made to panic. Swedish pair Strandstrand and Borgstedt began owning the midfield, but Grilled retreated and set up a defensive perimeter. Martinsson got booked in the holding campaign, to good effect as the final whistle went with both team scoreless.