Last Hurdle Trip-up
Zulharisan bin Jantan returned to haunt Grilled Birds with his new masters, as the nerve of Grilled's men broke towards the end of an absorbing Singapore Cup semi-finals.
The build-up to the match had been immense, and other than Jörgen Falkbo
none of the other players had been so far before. Love Unlimited Arena was packed like a tin of sardines, and the noise was amazing. "We didn't know we had that many fans," Siu-Yue would later remark. "Then I realised it was a silly thought because our own stadium regularly hosts over eighty thousand, but that was my first thought."
Team Singapore, having won the Cup and the S-League respectively in the two previous seasons, was chockful of established talent in the midfield. Highly-regarded young goalkeeper Chew Xiaolun kept goal, but Alcántara had identified weaknesses in defence and attack, and recommended an early long-ball salvo.
Grilled were very close to a confidence-boosting lead when one such ball whizzed to Langeland, who held off his marker and knocked it to Martinsson. Martinsson's first reaction was to blast it at goal, almost catching Xiaolun off guard. The shot skidded just wide eventually.
Alcántara's pace will again be called into question as he let 31 year-old Stjerning through on more than one occassion, and the Swede's short pass to Mattias Thorér in the 8th minute resulted in a soft first goal. Ex-U-20 player Tao Kwee-Lee, a youth product of Herron who was known for being shuttled around for trials at top Austrian side Strebersdorfer Stiere and even Swedish legends Inter Sthlm before settling in GeostarZ United FC, had a screamer that passed over the bar.
Team Singapore had controlled the half and defended their lead very professionally, and Grilled could not translate their possession into legitimate chances. Their best try of the game came right after the restart, when van Liere produced his obligatory moment of genius to lay the ball to Siu-Yue in a good scoring position. Siu-Yue hit the ball true, but Xiaolun scooped the effort across the goal.
As Grilled's players chased the ball fruitlessly, Zulharisan was a real pain as he often passed all the way back to the keeper, sparking desultory remarks from the Grilled contigent. Grilled fought the frustration, but lost the ball far too easily and even had to depend on Harlow batting away a weak shot by Mats Olsson.
The team completely lost the plot in the final ten minutes and went on an all-out rampage, allowing Torbjörn Örnskog to put the game away, and then team nemesis Zulharisan to rub salt into the wound with a sweetly-taken penalty after a late handball call.