Jan Finds His Feet
Discerning punters raked the cash in as Herron indeed could not better their recent second-game history of draws with Grilled Birds. It turned out one apiece, and bookmakers confirmed that they had to absorb a heavy net loss on this fixture.
The method it was obtained differed from previous seasons, as Grilled stuck to their usual 3-5-2 though they were the away team. Herron looked slightly vulnerable after an opening 2-4 defeat by defending champions FC RaZer Infernus, but took the initiative in front of seventy-five thousand expectant fans.
Herron's frontline had become thinner over time, and German striker Florian Jähnisch's being out of touch helped Bona and company immensely. Ex-national forward Shu Chit-Fu was in similarly poor form. Even then, he clipped a low lob to midfielder Håkan Ingesson in the 15th minute, but Harlow dealt with it bravely.
Chit-Fu's temper got the better of him when Falkbo beat him in the air, and he elbowed at the veteran after landing. That act caught the referee's eyes, and led to an instant booking. Grilled were having trouble getting forward with all van Liere's moves being read by 20 year-old Gert-Marijn Vogels, who matched the Dutchman stride for stride.
There was an uproar as Jähnisch crept past the last man in a confusing free-for-all late in the half, and fell after being sandwiched by Bona and Harlow. He refused to get up as he waited for the penalty call, but though the linesman had his flag in the air, the referee shook his head. To be fair, either decision would have been justified.
Indeed, Zhong Zhenghuang must have kept that incident in mind, for when a clear hand-to-ball occured in the 50th minute as Paullin leapt and turned away from a cross, he pointed to the spot. National team defender Chen Haupai calmly sent the ball far to Harlow's right to convert his second penalty in as many matches.
It looked bleak for Grilled as Herron's defence had barely been threatened till then, but van Liere made one glorious run down the right to supply Kek-Tjiang with a free shot. Kek-Tjiang had to take it on the run, and had the resultant blast been half a foot lower it would have been a brilliant goal.
That had Herron drawing men back, but it only served Grilled's purpose as they could stroke the ball about more freely. Langeland then poached the equaliser just after the hour mark, skipping over Haupai's well-executed sliding tackle to place a sizzler into Abd Rauf Mohd Nadzir's net.
Herron tried to regain the lead quickly, and Haupai sent a homing free-kick right to Chit-Fu's head a minute after the restart. Harlow was a step behind the play and probably could not have kept the glancing header out, but the ball took a hard bounce on the turf and ended up going inches past the post.