Lions Locked On
All our Middies
Grilled sold out The Cooking Pot for the second time in a row, and handsomely rewarded the fans who bought tickets by making it four wins out of four at home. Team Singapore had engineered one of the transfer coups of the season by letting unsettled midfielder Yin Van-Phuoc leave for S$9 million to Winning Eleven after just a month, before splurging S$12 million on a direct replacement from Rushden & Diamonds, Nie Yong-chul.
Packing enough quality to tear Herron apart 3-0 just days before, the addition of Yong-chul appeared to spell doom for Grilled, whom were expected to divide their midfielders between the league and cup. Just how desperate the situation was was illustrated by Alcántara handing 17 year-old Jie Siong his league debut. Indeed, there was general foreboding in the stands when the team sheets were revealed.
Auld enemy Zulharisan bin Jantan cast himself as the harbinger of worse things to come when he found the back of Harlow's net after just six minutes. Jie Siong had been closed down by two opponents and lost the ball trying to dash out of trouble, and ex-U20 playmaker Tao Kwee-Lee sprang a poorly setup offside trap. Zulharisan had two strikers to his left and right, but demonstrated his own finishing with a scorcher inside the left post.
Grilled regrouped admirably, and Shen began doling out nasty but legal tackles to protect the less confident youngster. Abandoning both flanks by laying Rottman and Paullin closer to the middle, Grilled emulated the 1966 English "wingless wonders" and advanced metre by metre painstakingly.
Paullin changed the pace with a snap pass to Langeland, who astonished by feinting his way past Li Chan. Getting his body between the ball and the speedy defender, Langeland weaved a route that avoided confrontation until he got within reasonable range, whereby he beat much-watched keeper Chew Xiaolun with a good strike to his right.
Langeland celebrated by adding a second two minutes later, again with a bit of individual skill. This time, Siu-Yue lofted a little lob that Langeland stood his ground to receive, let it bounce ever so slightly on his kicking side and then twisted to let fly into goal. He fell badly on that shot, landing heavily on his backside, but that didn't deter his mates from lifting him into the air.
Spirig in the central defensive position, a result of Falkbo not yet fully healed, didn't look very convincing as his midfield training saw him gravitate upfield. Bona thankfully was on hand to do the donkey work at leftback. Yong-chul got off a glancing header after his winger had returned a long corner into the box, but with Harlow in no man's land the ball declined to enter, going out off the post.
Woodlands Punishers' youth talent Kok An Da had become a force to reckon with after training in Poland and Switzerland, and he surprised Swiss-born Spirig in the 33rd minute when he pinballed the ball between his feet. Sensing Spirig's reluctance to commit, An Da passed him on the right and crashed a stinging shot just past Harlow.
With both sides having held and lost the lead, the game wound down sullenly as both teams waited for half-time. Resumption did little to liven things up, until player-coach Alcántara made fans gasp by running down a stray lob down the right as though he had lost ten years. Rottman offered prompt support, and was to be flabbergasted as the Argentinean cheekily hefted it over Xiaolun straight into the net.
Sparks flew immediatedly as Team Singapore went into overdrive, and came close to scoring before Siu-Yue caught up with Possen and hauled him down from the side. A yellow card was flashed, then another as the free-kick came off the wall and Sun Tat-Chung insisted that the wall had moved.
Grilled's six midfielders peppered about the pitch knew each other well enough to do the odd swapping of positions, which frustrated Team Singapore's more static organization. Kek-Tjiang won a free-kick about twenty-five metres out when he was tripped in possession, and from that opportunity Ola Martinsson
scored through his lesser-used left foot.
Towards the end Martinsson could have even made it 5-2 for his team when he stooped for a dropping cross by Paullin, but Xiaolun's reactions were blindingly fast as he blocked with his forearms together. Martinsson sent the resulting corner out of play, but could rest easy in that Grilled had already secured the win.