Better Luck Next Time
Huang Hammers Twice
newbies are newbies effectively lifted the II.2 title in style, as they put its destination beyond doubt with a rocking 5-1 demolition job at the newbies ground, before their adoring fans. The Birds had to start without Tian Yonghang
, and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
's departure two thirds of the way through scuppered their stomach for the fight, but there should be no excuses as the dynamic hosts led by Huang Kangyan showed why they are worthy champions.
In the lead-in to their match of the season, Grilled's aspirations took a blow when the news came through that Tian Yonghang
had failed the late fitness test. Apparently, Niculae Stanca
could have insisted that the 27 year-old deep-lying forward take part, and Tian himself was more than willing, but on balance opted for a balanced lineup by pinning his hopes on Wong Ping Shun
and Low Aik Jia
newbies in contrast had a full squad to pick from, and picked the devasting 2-5-3 that has seen off so many other teams this term. Zhang Ruotian led them onto the pitch to a standing ovation from the gallery, many whom were already looking forward to a first S-League appearance in their 37 season-long history.
Grilled were not quite the same without that third man up top, but this did free up a place for Abdul bin Jantan
to help out at the back. There was no question as to which team were the more flowing, however, and Huang Kangyan got a free-kick out of bin Jantan after some dizzying turns in the eighteenth minute.
The ground with deathly silent as right winger Yue Haoping took his time to place the ball, but in the end it was not one of his famed rockets; instead, Yue hit it low but hard to the advancing Ante Skrjanc, who slid in to get that extra yard on Wong Tian Han
Grilled might have equalised immediately as they broke forward with resolution from the restart, and Chow Ying Lee
dragged Juha Hatara aside with his incursion before flicking it behind for Wong Ping Shun
, but Wong's first-time grounder zipped agonizingly wide.
newbies nearly went further ahead in a repeat of their first goal as Yue lifted it wide for Hatara, but thankfully Ling Fuquan
made himself enough of a distraction that Hatara's header looped over the bar.
While still only one down, there was little indication that the Birds would be able to make it back, as their weakened attack found no purchase. Low Aik Jia
, on whom high hopes had been placed, simply could not pass Petrică Dan on the right, not helped by the wet grass limiting his top speed.
They did level up against the run of play, however, as Wong squeezed in an early cross from the right in the 39th minute. A slip by Hatara allowed it in behind, where Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
cleaned up with his first shot of the day.
Although it was Grilled who needed the win, newbies grasped the initiative during half-time, as they emphasized tight midfield play. This brought immediate dividends as Leow Jing Ting ghosted silently down the left, and placed it narrowly past Wong after Giulio Bollini had spotted his run.
This did however cause the Birds the rise to the challenge, and the men in away blue began to patiently stroke it about and wait for their opportunity. Their composure was however snapped in the 63rd minute, when Huang Kangyan swept Mohd Safri's legs out from behind, as the Grilled striker kept his attention on controlling the ball.
The normally calm Chow Ying Lee
rushed up to confront Huang for that, as Mohd Safri clutched at his ankle on the ground, as other players ran towards the scene to break them up. Belgian referee Ruud Schreurs did well to gain control, but probably erred in not dismissing Huang for that challenge.
The yellow card meant that Huang would stay while Mohd Safri had to be withdrawn after several minutes of trying to recuperate on the sidelines, and while Leong Wan Kang
was an eager substitute, he was simply not of the quality required to trouble the newbies backline, especially with only Chow to play off.
Shorn of their major source of inspiration, Grilled's recovery ground to a shuddering halt, as newbies seized the chance to again intimidate the Birds. Zhao Jing Wei
tried to take over as the nexus, but it was an uphill battle with only Chow a reliable outlet, and Bollini's excellent shot had to be tipped over by Wong in the 72nd minute.
It became apparent that Grilled were not going to make it, as they made more and more outlandish attempts to get the ball to their forwards as time ticked away. They would inevitably be caught unguarded with such a reckless gameplan, and Yue Haoping's early ball in the 77th minute was met by Huang for 3-1, to much jeering from the away section.
Huang certainly didn't mind being the villian to the Grilled support, and he visibly relished his second goal six minutes later, as the Birds soullessly continued throwing themselves at the newbies' lines. With Ling gone to help out, Huang could not be caught by Rashid bin Ahmad
as he blazed down the left and beat Wong with a well-timed release.
There was little that the Birds could do but to wait for the clock to run out, but they would suffer another goal before the end as Leong Wan Kang
's poor tackle gave away yet another free-kick, from which Petrică Dan had his effort deflected past Wong for their fifth and final goal.