An Da Miracle
A top-of-the-table rumble was settled in the most dramatic of fashions, as Martinsson's 89th minute saving equaliser was cancelled cruelly by Kok An Da as the final whistle went. Twenty-one players could walk off the pitch at The Dome Of The White Lion with their heads held high, with fingers inevitably being pointed at the one dismissal - Siu-Yue.
Since Team Singapore had, in one of the upsets of the season, been walloped 2-7 by Chemistry in the Singapore Cup quarter-finals, the three points from this game took on vastly increased importance for both sides. Grilled had taken the home fixture 4-2 already, so it was up to Team Singapore to stifle the threat.
Finicky passing characterised the opening half an hour, as the strikers made several glaring elementary mistakes. Grilled were positioned a bit deeper than normal, and while the home side had more of the ball, it usually was in their own territory. Siu-Yue risked being sent off directly with a full-blooded left-foot swipe at Yong-chul, but a forgiving referee only flashed the yellow.
Team Singapore patiently built up from midfield, and without warning the No. 7 Sun Tat-Chung raced across the face of the penalty area and clipped a banana shot inside the far post. Harlow sidestepped and jumped, but it was always flying away from him.
Harlow kept a subdued Grilled side in the match as he parried two likely goals in the following minutes. Yong-chul headed viciously towards the bottom corner in the 35th, and was only denied by Harlow's foot. Four minutes later, Lin Hee-Jun struck mightily after a ten-metre run-up, and Harlow barely managed to push it over the bar.
Grilled used their possession in the final minutes of the half wisely, and manufactured a couple of opportunities. Given enough of them, one man would eventually do the job, and Ola Martinsson
did just that from an intricate four-man move. Six metres from goal, he could do little less than ace Kek-Tjiang's toepass.
It all fell apart in injury time when Yong-chul showed Siu-Yue a clean pair of heels. Despite being comprehensively beaten, Siu-Yue blindly rotated his body while on the ground and hooked his opponent down flat. It was certainly the second red-card worthy offence he had committed, and this time there could be no reprive.
Facing half of the game with ten men, Grilled elected not to make any changes but instead began relying on long balls. Little luck there, as the Team Singapore defence was more than prepared. They commanded much of the field with a numerical advantage, and Hee-Jun soon beat Harlow with a powerful missile from some way outside the box.
Under threat of being overrun, Bona committed a professional foul and got away with a booking. Belgian striker Vincent Possen was cheated when his balance got him past the last man but his lob fell on top of the goalnet, while stellar performer Yong-chul inspired a fingertip save from Harlow with a fierce drive.
Grilled staged a revival in the final minutes as in the first half, and the sudden transformation to their usual short passing kickstarted a fabulous fast break. Stanton was clear on the left, but Stensson gained a vital few metres of ground in the chase and headed the Eurasian midfielder off.
It looked all done and dusted as Team Singapore began actively defending their lead, when in the 88th minute Possen caught Spirig in the leg with a bad tackle, ruling himself out of the next match with his third yellow of the season. Spirig picked himself up, and nonchalently lifted the ball crossfield diagonally before disbelieving eyes.
Martinsson was waiting just for something like that, probably due to some training ground experience, and converted his short sprint into a running leap just as ex U-20 goalie Chew Xiaolun extended for the ball. Martinsson's sole made contact first, and the ball made two bounces into an unguarded net to make it two-all.
It seemed the perfect ending to a match which was electrifying at times, but Kok An Da, who had been largely forgotten, wrote a final footnote to his liking as the seconds ticked away. Bona could possibly have stopped him with a simple bodycheck but pulled out due to his earlier booking. That would have been the right choice almost every time, but no one counted on An Da sending a clean, inch-perfect rocket straight into goal.