Stars Burn Out
Ola Top In Cup
Just as Ola Martinsson
had predicted, if Lady Luck sang for Grilled, they would go through regardless. Shen playing below himself? Stanton and Rottman off colour? Langeland injured? No one cared, with Martinsson's brace lifting Grilled to a historic quarterfinal appearance.
Stars may have lost their last four league games, but their young midfield, comprising Swede Björn Åkesson, Dutchman Falko Delang and Romanian Dan Visoiu, had the juice to overrun a pedestrian Grilled midfield. All the early chances went their way rightfully, and Harlow had his hands full.
South African winger Sandile Koaeana showed off unorthodox dribbling techniques to fool Tuan-Mu numerous times, and there was once he even nipped past Bona to bypass the defence with a pass to the unmarked Kong Soo-Soou. Very similar in style to Martinsson, the Latvian-trained Singaporean hammered it to the far corner, but Harlow sprang across manfully and took the impact.
Per Stensson then outpaced Bona to a very fast cross from Koaeana, and Harlow inexplicably stayed on his line. He was justified finally as the cross bent away, and Bona kept Stensson from putting full power into the finish. Harlow's positioning still had to be perfect as he had only a fraction of a second to react from that range.
Stensson's speed was disconcerting for Grilled as Falkbo and Tuan-Mu didn't have the youngest of legs, and even the very fit Bona often got left behind. Stars beat their offside trap on the half-hour mark and Bona could only slow Stensson down a mite, but not before he had played the ball into space for Soo-Soou. The Singaporean did a delightful misdirection to wrongfoot Harlow and put All Stars Team in the lead.
Grilled were in real trouble, and Shen finally returned to his old self for a moment as he showed the Stars midfield who was boss. He couldn't get the ball forward as the strikers were well marked, but Bona read the game well and provided the extra man once more. His fourth goal of the season came with a return shot down the middle after Omar Martínez had been drawn to the side.
All Stars Team were dealt a critical blow as Falko Delang collided with Stanton in an open chase for the ball, and he went to ground awkwardly. He got a bad twist on his left knee which required 22 year-old Swiss benchwarmer Francis Stout to come in. Stars never regained their fluency in the middle after that, and Martinsson put the sword in with a spinning strike from a Paullin assist.
Stars probably did not deserve the turnaround, as they could have easily been three-nil up with some luck. They did get some justice when Martinsson overhit a simple finish in the opening minutes of the second half. Stout ran his lungs out as Stars searched for the equaliser, and Soo-Soou levelled in the 77th minute with an individual bit of magic, weaving his way past Falkbo and Bona to beat Harlow at the far post.
Their robust fans had barely began their celebrations, however, when the defence threw it all away. Instead of stabilising a game that Grilled still had an edge in, the back three found itself caught out but an immediate riptose through the centre. Stars' defenders were known for their muscle, but Martinsson is himself no wimp and he held off a despairing Tänzler to score.
Stars lost their last hope when key man Dan Visoiu scythed Jan Langeland
down in full view of an assistant referee, getting an immediate sending-off. Grilled considered it a good bargain as the fresh legs of Hjortlind made Grilled utterly dominant in midfield, leaving All Stars Team with a floundering league campaign to salvage.