New Nation Nerf
Grilled Birds met a Team Singapore in transition, as the Tigers had sold off midfield master Sun Tat-Chung and young local forward Kok An Da for over S$20 million just two days ago. No replacements were in sight for the ex-S-League and Cup champions, so Grilled were able to muster a workmanlike two-nil victory.
Team Singapore were extremely lightweight in attack, as third-choice Ni Shiu-Loong made a rare start. The much-lauded Singaporean midfield core was still very much intact, though, and Chew Xiaolun was as ever a titan in goal. Quality elsewhere wasn't nearly as high, and contributed to an early lead for the home side.
Grilled had put the relatively callow Jie Siong and Borup on the wings, restoring Han Kok to the middle alongside usual starters Siu-Yue and Rottman. Han Kok inspired the sixth minute opener as he floated a high, deep ball across the Team Singapore defence, right on cue for the brilliant Bona to swipe into the top netting.
It was a satisfying sight for the home supporters, who watched as Grilled passed the ball comfortably on familiar home grass. Team Singapore were having problems getting it together in the offensive third, which encouraged Grilled's defenders to venture further up than they usually did. This allowed a constant string of attacks, most of which were repelled skilfully by the opposing team.
36 year-old Swedish striker Jan Ragnin was booked early on for a vindictive-looking challenge on the barely younger Falkbo, but there were no hard feelings between the two countrymen as Ragnin pulled Falkbo to his feet. Borup got a yellow too, as he held on to Kwee-Lee's jersey to prevent a breakaway by the midfielder.
As half-time loomed large, Rottman scored a welcome second as Martinsson headed on a short clearance by Xiaolun. There was no-one remotely close to Rottman at that time, with attention focused on Wai-Kin in a far more obvious position. Rottman proved no less lethal however with a venomous header to the goal-line.
Team Singapore were content to hold the fort in the second half, as their midfield didn't have any good ideas on developing a decent offence. Grilled meanwhile had ready outlets in the form of their two strikers, but a sad lack of width removed many options. Paullin was seen warming up at the sidelines, but was never called into play.
In the end, Grilled's only acquisition from the remainder of the game was a yellow card from a characteristically reckless Siu-Yue, as he sent his studs into the hamstrings of bin Jantan. The recently suspended midfielder rather optimistically protested his innocence to the referee, but it was not likely to have had an effect.