van Liere Awesome
The Birds' long wait of nearly two seasons to put one over Ultimate NutsZ passed spectacularly, as the loss of star Swedish midfielder Johan Hansson, who lost his race to be fit, crippled them. Alfian bin Raja Hassan, despite having FC RaZer Infernus and Winning Eleven on his resume, was a misfit as Grilled rolled on.
Both sides had seven unbeaten games behind them, but home ground advantage and the memory of dropped points had Grilled fast out of the gate. NutsZ boasted one of the strongest back threes in Singapore with Rochat, Serra and Golomb a formidable barrier, and they were not flustered till Grilled captain Luis Alcántara
squeezed every inch of pace out of his slowing feet and nearly rounded German keeper Niklas Akam, who took a second to respond.
NutsZ breathed more easily after that early escape, and controlled a stop-start match with tight positional defending. Gustav Ericsson got suspended for the Cup match after he took Martinsson down heavily, and the free-scoring Swede looked a shadow of his former self in the remainder of the game.
Other players took up the slack, as NutsZ tempted fate again when Alfian was set upon by two midfielders and let van Liere run at the undermanned defence with the ball. van Liere skied that, but Kek-Tjiang, who could do no wrong, embellished a superhuman midfield presence with a sweet technical goal taken on the move.Hidde van Liere
began to exhibit the skills that propelled him into the Dutch U-20, buoyed by chanting from the stands. Neat footwork opened up a path beyond Golomb, and he then held off Gerrit Willems, his Dutch U-20 senior, before crossing. Langeland arrived late but extended his torso well to tip a soft header into the far end of goal.
NutsZ were in no condition to mount surprises as they hadn't troubled Harlow in the first half, with Taiwanese international striker Shao Bao-Tam all by himself. Bao-Tam did very credibly against Bona and company, but he was not of the divine calibre required to beat two or three men on his own.
Paullin's speed, so lethal in the less competitive Cup games, proved to be of big-league standard too as he ripped into NutsZ's left flank with regularity. He threatened to take it all the way in the 50th minute, then distributed to Langeland who was free in the six-yard box. Langeland was visibly ashamed at hoofing the gift well wide.
Martinsson's best hope came from an indirect free kick just inside the box that Falkbo spread wide to him. He put in a measured, slow lob that Akam had little trouble pushing over the bar to safety. Martinsson's corner was cleared, but van Liere took the ball back and waltzed throught the chaos to claim his maiden league goal.
More joy from the Flying Dutchman as he showcased his considerable arsenal of tricks on the right, before taking off straight at goal. He was professionally blocked, but not before releasing his second assist of the day, a 50-50 ball that Langeland and Akam challenged for. Neither got a touch on, and Siu-Yue at the far post dived in to head the fourth.