Grilled fled the Pacific Plaza Penthouse with a hard-earned point as they were hit by the double whammy of overconfidence and a severe injury to their best midfielder, Asher Stanton
. Goalkeeper Clair Harlow
had a lot to do with that, as he single-handedly kept out two sure goals to preserve Grilled's undefeated start.
Chinablack had bounced between Divisions Two and Three since they last hobnobbed with Grilled in II.1, fuelled mainly by homegrown Singaporean star Hsiao Tzung. Recently, they have splashed out over S$12 million on two superb 17 year-olds with what was one of the country's largest transfer budgets, but Grilled's first teamers were still the prohibitive favourites for this game.
It was apparent from the beginning that at least a few of Grilled's guys had enjoyed a night out, as unbelievably woeful coordination gifted Chinablack some easy interceptions. Player-coach Alcántara realised that and reacted furiously, but he had his hands tied.
It didn't seem to matter as the direct running confused Chinablack's defence, and Shen Kek-Tjiang
ended up with the ball after Langeland got crowded out in the six-yard box. Without thinking, the defensive midfielder banged it right back as Martinsson screamed for the ball, and it actually made its way through a forest of legs into the bottom corner.Ola Martinsson
lengthened his scoring streak to six matches by pumping in a ball that was slow enough to be a cross and yet hard enough to be a shot, and was elated when everyone missed it and it took a bounce before slipping through the hands of Swedish keeper Roger Bengtsson. Grilled looked safe, especially when Harlow plucked Jan Kyhlell's header out of the air in what was Chinablack's most threatening attack.
The rot began when Asher Stanton
didn't move after going up for an air ball in midfield. The orderlies were dispatched, and after some minutes' investigation it was realised that Stanton had partially ruptured his Achilles tendon. Resigned to the fact that his best man was not going to be back for some weeks, Alcántara called for Lorenz Paullin
to come in.
Grilled were just not the same team without Stanton, and Chinablack's tall forwards dominated the skies above Grilled's penalty box without midfield cover. Ex English U-20 player Niall Nelis leapt over Falkbo to make it 1-2 from a Jan Jonasson cross. Velimir Pecaric then hit the post from the restart, and Nelis was booked for throwing himself dangerously at the rebound. Hidde van Liere
was as ever quick in taking the ball up, and a simple square lob saw Au-Yong Siu-Yue
in perfect position to smash in a volley.
That was the end of Grilled's involvement as an attacking force, as Paullin didn't have the confidence to pass forward, and Kek-Tjiang had his hands full with livewire Hsiao Tzung. Chinablack put themselves back on level terms in three frantic minutes, with Jonasson and Xi Tian-Xiang dribbling their way through.
Had it not being for Harlow's earlier one-handed save from Tian-Xiang and his later footblock against Laporte, not to mention numerous lesser chances, Grilled might have lost all their dignity. Several senior members of the side were by now mad at their hungover teammates, but Grilled's experience was enough to see them grab a point they didn't really deserve.