A gloriously sunny day at Lest We Forget saw the Birds drop more points in their quest for the S-League trophy, but they again escaped the worst of it as their closest challengers mostly stumbled too. United Warrior Team maintained the zest that had seen them overturn Be Champions FC on this ground last week, and Grilled could not dig deeply enough to best the Warriors' spirits.
There was no reprive for the dissatisfied Low Aik Jia
, as the livewire left winger again simmered on the bench, while Clément Meyer
claimed his post. Warriors' Scottish star Jordan McCleary would come to regret that decision too, as Low would surely not have gone at him with the intent that Meyer did. The eighth minute sliding challenge saw McCleary stretchered off with his standing leg in a brace, and the home fans incensed at referee Robert Jonsson's awarding of just a yellow.
Other than that sorry incident, the match was much cleaner than one of its significance could have been expected to be. The Birds' quick-moving passing game saw little contact with the Warriors' men, who were also careful not to concede unnecessary free-kicks. Reserve centreback Chan Li Yau had a blinder as he shackled the rather more storied Tian Yonghang
with a fierce resolve, which spared Marcel Liefke from having to make more than one save.
It was better for Grilled on the right, where Carlos Rufach found Wong Ping Shun
's headlong style a pain to deal with. Rufach's higher centre of gravity meant that it was hard for him to contain Wong, and when Xie Chi Huat went over to help in the 21st minute, Wong managed to scuff the ball out for Ling Fuquan
to carry on and score.
The Warriors must count among Ling's favoured opponents given that he had also gotten a goal in their last meeting, but it was Wong Ping Shun
who was doing all the directing at the moment. Warriors finally gave up a foul in front of their own penalty area as Grilled cranked up the intensity, and Wong sent his usual piledriver inches over the bar.
Warriors were hardly pushovers on their own ground, however, and Austrian substitute forward Robert Malik gave his markers the slip more than once with his creative runs. Unfortunately, his teammates found it hard to get the ball to him, all the more with Gene Filippone
getting the upper hand in contesting high balls against Umberto Avanzo.
The interval allowed the home team a welcome breather after forty-five minutes in the scorching summer heat, and they would be level barely two minutes into the second half. As countless teams have learnt, there is no really effective defence against a corner kick, and tall Czech Jáchym Vedral emerged from the teeming morass to head it sharply into Wong Tian Han
's blind spot.
This allowed them to take the initiative as the Birds became unsure of how to proceed, and Warriors could easily have won a decisive penalty from Xie's dash into the box a while later. A magic turn saw former international Xie peel away from the similarly-decorated Woon Shun An
, and Wong Tian Han
seemed to take both man and ball with his desperate lunge.
The home fans burst out in cheering, certain that there would be a penalty, but the already not-too-popular McCleary would dash their hopes by waving appeals aside. That said, the instant replays would vindicate the match officials, as they showed Wong get a full hand on the ball an instant before he sent Xie flying with his follow-through.
While the immediate danger was past, Grilled never quite regained the ascendancy they had in the first half, all the more with prime mover Wong Ping Shun
having overexerted himself. Meyer tried to pick up the slack on the other flank, but was reduced to largely playing it square and back due to the dedication of fullback Claudio Boschetto.
The status quo was far from ideal for everybody involved, and the game remained excitingly open as the players jostled for the advantage. The fragile balance was finally shattered in the 66th minute, when the perceptive Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
spotted Chan distracted for an instant. He chose that very moment to sprint inside, and Tian Yonghang
released the through pass with an understanding borne of a lifetime backing each other up. Liefke committed himself slightly too early, and Mohd Safri rounded him to dink Grilled's second goal in.
The visiting supporters' exuberance lasted all of four minutes, after which Grilled lost their lead in their usual comical fashion. Avanzo, who had been reserved up till now, suddenly found himself clear onto goal. Strangely, he elected to shoot far too early, and Wong Tian Han
had his entire body behind it for a routine save... when Ling Fuquan
slid in and sent the previously-harmless effort spiralling over his own keeper.
It was an absolute disaster for the homegrown defender, and Wong was not of a mind to comfort him after picking it out of his own net. Avanzo was happy enough to claim it, and it was all back to square one with twenty minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, while a point would not help either side too much, they did not have enough in the tank to push for a winner, and an oddly-subdued finale slowly fizzled out to general disappointment from the paying spectators.