Five And A Half
A quicksilver firestarter by Hidde van Liere
aided Grilled to a point they were perhaps fortunate to grasp, as Winning Eleven were just outstanding all over the field. They had to sweat until the 81st minute however, as Grilled's initial lead was not easy to overcome.
Winning had a seasoned international-standard forward line, as out-of-favour local supremo Zang Kai-Chung and Greek champion Nikos Avramidis shared nearly ninety caps between them. Their rock-solid midfield had seen it all, but could not make up for van Liere's pure vitality as the Dutchman let a ball from surprise inclusion Quah Han Kok
Gustav Håkansson had seen eight sides in his decade and a half in soccer, and probably recognised that the only way to stop van Liere in full flight involved a sending off. With the game in its infancy, he stood off and hoped that Tom Pinchetti could pull a small miracle off his countryman. He couldn't.
The home fans were clearly upset, and Langeland should have been smart enough not to provoke them further as he stepped up to take a throw. One hand gesture led to another, and soon the linesman had to escort Langeland away for a stony-faced Wu Kuangchen to flash his yellow card as a warning.
Grilled's third minute goal gave them a psychological edge, which they cleverly held on to by indulging in some passing practice. Winning were clearly the better side when they had the ball, though one wouldn't have thought of that as Lorenz Paullin
exposed Reinold Mönkhof with a twisting run.
There didn't look any hope as Paullin's pedestrian cross swooped towards Winning's defenders, but it bounced inexplicably high on the turf and got through to Martinsson. Martinsson never looked a gift horse in the mouth, and cut in a dropping drive into the bottom left corner from eight metres.
The makings of a disaster for the home team looked in the works, but Langeland threw a spanner in when he got involved with a heckler in the stands. The referee forfeited Grilled's free-kick for that infraction, and that should have been the end of it had not Langeland dissented by knocking the ball away. A second yellow came out, and match stewards had to come on to get the usually mild-mannered striker to leave the pitch.
Even then, the last notable chance of the first half went to the Green Army, as van Liere saw Falkbo out of the corner of his eye and threaded the ball to him in the 31st minute. Falkbo thought he had made it three-nothing, but Håkansson was expecting the pass and threw his body onto the shot.
Grilled knew they were behind on real skill, what with Stanton and Siu-Yue reserved for the potentially tricky midweek Cup game. Han Kok strove mightily, but years of experience showed as the nineteen year-old was often left running like a headless chicken.
Winning Eleven played a patient game as they lured men out of defence, before delivering a hammer blow through the S$14.5 million Nikos Avramidis. Paullin was tied up half the field away when Vincent Grunder beat Alcántara to a long ball, and his bending cross got met head on by Avramidis. Harlow stuck out a glove to stop it, but was inches too short.
Grilled began defending for their lives, as with Langeland gone they didn't have much ambitions to score more anyway. Winning suddenly found themselves with space in midfield, and began stretching Grilled on a rack. Zang Kai-Chung, having plundered his fair share of goals for the Singapore national side, almost got another one as he blasted a wicked curler from twenty-five metres. Falkbo at the far post played saviour this time.
Winning had run up against a wall, and the misery on some of their supporters' faces was evident as they looked destined to lose to an inferior side. Avramidis doled out a little bit of magic as he accelerated past Bona to notch his 150th career goal and bring a smile to their faces, but they must have left the stadium still feeling more than a little cheated.