How The Mighty Go
Herron In Danger
Before a rain-depleted crowd of some forty-six thousand, Herron ceased to be the last top-flight side in Singapore that Grilled Birds have failed to beat. More importantly, it spelled the end of seven games without a win for the Greens, and put them in a good position to avoid the dreaded drop.
It had been three draws and two defeats for Grilled in prior meetings, with them not having scored more than a solitary goal against Herron in any of those five meetings. They had never even taken the lead against the six-time S-League champions, but had arguably advanced more over time, no thanks to Herron's already incredible standards.
Herron were without tricky German winger Arngrim Schreinerbauers, whose third yellow card of the season against Titus Titanium IV made him stay home. The main strength of their side was still there, though, with names like Chit-Fu, Abd Rauf Mohd Nadzir and Haupai filling the lineup.
Grilled were not about to defend on their home pitch, and truth to be said they were all fired up for the game. Herron were narrow in attack as they abandoned the flanks with Schreinerbauers gone, so Grilled's defence had a relatively easy time.
The muddy field precluded fast running, but van Liere's pace was only one of his attributes. He leaned into the path of a ball from Kek-Tjiang, then went the other way, totally losing his marker. A quick cross over to Han Kok coming in from the right, and a sweet return saw van Liere claim the opener for Grilled.
The home fans only then started to get warmed up. Dani Spirig
, starting in central defence, went in hard on Jörgen Persson from the side. Persson, who was Schreinerbauers' replacement, had to be taken off and exchanged for third-teamer Ismael Aldana, who made up the numbers but did little more. Spirig got cautioned for his rash challenge.
Aldana was still finding his footing when Han Kok drew defenders to him by dribbling around on the right side. He found his way down the sidelines as Grilled's players slowly filtered inside, then squeezed a high cross in. Mohd Nadzir swatted it away under pressure from Martinsson, but Stanton quickly lifted it back to Falkbo, who glanced his header into the net.
If that was brilliant for the home fans, imagine their delight when van Liere supplied Langeland on a wonderful run down the left, for the Norwegian to clip home between Kjell Askenbrant and Mohd Nadzir. Three-nothing up in just 28 minutes, it prompted Herron's manager to proclaim the real threat of relegation to the press during the half-time interval.
That looked slightly premature, as his blue-shirted charges pulled two goals back in the span of three minutes, to seriously worry Grilled's supporters. Swedish midfielder Jens Hallell displayed his immaculate skills first, getting his chip in behind Harlow although the goalie had positioned himself well against Herron's assault down the right side.
Anders Eriksson was booked for a hard tackle as he tried to win back the ball, lost after the kickoff. Their guts paid off as Grilled's free-kick was intercepted, and Håkan Ingesson showed good strength to keep control of the ball while crashing through Grilled's central defence. Spirig tried to stop him, but Ingesson made a good strike that just flew past Harlow.
With their lead reduced to a vulnerable one goal, Grilled pushed back, and Martinsson sorely tested Herron's goalie with a powerful, accurate shot at the near top corner. Mohd Nadzir read the flight of the ball correctly, but still had to twist in mid-air to get both hands onto the ball.
Neither side had any shots on target after that, and not for lack of trying; Grilled, who might have been expected to sit back, went heavily at Herron through their wingers, while Herron again tried to force a path through the middle. In the end, however, Grilled grabbed all three points on offer, leaving Herron to contemplate the unthinkable.