Defending Champs Out
Last season's Singapore Cup winners All Stars Team relinquished their claim to the trophy in an action-packed match on their home ground against Grilled. They were missing star Romanian midfielder Dan Visoiu to a long-term injury, surely a loss as Visoiu played a big part in the two sides' last meeting, coincidentally in the same round of the Cup two seasons ago. Dutch defensive midfielder Falko Delang's latest poor run of form brought yet more concern to the home side.
It was all roses nine minutes after the opening whistle, though, as sharp-eyed local forward Kong Soo-Soou claimed his tenth Cup goal of the season to send All Stars Team Arena into a frenzy. It was a marvellous ball over the defence by Delang, but Soo-Soou's technique was even more amazing. Bona got onto him dutifully, but by then he had dispatched a volley that Abed-Sulaiman would never get to.
The lead lasted for just four minutes, as Wai-Kin opened up with several strong direct runs. Grilled had the better midfield on paper and in reality, as the full first-team complement lorded it in the center. It was a testament to how seriously All Stars Team was taken, that even U-20 regular Quah Han Kok
was relegated to a wing role for the game.
The equalizer itself was created by Rottman, who one-touched on a fast pass from Quah. Mats Everbratt had his stance slightly wrong, which proved fatal as Cao's clever first touch played the ball between the central defenders. He took two steps, and then twisted a stunner into the top right corner to break the hearts of the home fans.
Everbratt had a chance to make up as his side charged up in support of fellow Singaporean U-20 Ho Lee Pin's darting run, and the long cross fell right to him on the far side of goal. Abed-Sulaiman justified his salary by his twitch-reflex save from all of four metres, and promptly spent the next minute roasting his defence.
At the other side, Grilled were finding it hard to penetrate. Martinsson then reminded the watchers that a player did not necessarily have to be anywhere near the penalty box to score, as he dribbled with his head up and saw Argentinean goalie Omar Martínez fractionally off his line. Using a few metres to line up his ambitious strike from midfield, he landed it in over Martinez for a memorable goal.
Siu-Yue got himself suspended for Sunday's away league return game to ChAmPzz, with a horror tackle on defender Damián Saguir. Totally unnecessary, it had Saguir's left leg jarred badly, which forced an early substitution. Muscular German beefcake Kevin Tänzler paid special attention to Siu-Yue after he came on.
No more goals before the break as All Stars Team defended professionally, but a terrible lapse straight after the fifteen-minute interval served up a simple walk-in for Wai-Kin. Three men went for an overhit cross by Borup, but the goalie and defender ended up tangled in each other as Wai-Kin benefitted from a lucky bounce.
Falkbo's age showed him up against nippy Swiss striker Ulrich Rudolf, who showed him a clean pair of heels in an open situation. None of Falkbo's years of experience was of any use against an opponent intent on sprinting straight for goal, and Rudolf demonstrated great balance to evade Abed-Sulaiman and squeeze the ball in at the near post.
Han Kok's best moment in the game restored Grilled's two-goal cushion, as he cheekily presented a no-look pass to Siu-Yue, who had made an intelligent run down the flanks. No offside could be called as Han Kok had timed his pass well, and the stadium saw yet another solo goal with Siu-Yue opting for the safer shot from eight metres.
Grilled's Abed-Sulaiman made his first bad misjudgement in some time, as the ex-Egyptian international threw the ball at Falkbo, not realising that Rudolf was between them. The striker had to jump to bring the ball down, but still had a couple of seconds on the defence as he accelerated towards goal. Disappointingly he pushed the ball way too far, and in the end scuffled an attempt that slowly trickled out of bounds for a goal kick.
Martinsson was not far away with a second outlandish long shot, this time from somewhat closer but a less central position. The stadium held its breath as Martínez this time was in no position to make the save, but the curve on the ball was insufficient to bring it into the net.
All Stars Team were not finished yet, but were finding it hard to manufacture anything until the 88th minute. Lee Pin and Delang shamed the Grilled midfield with a well-rehearsed trick routine, and sent Rudolf away on a one-on-one with Abed-Sulaiman, which he won. With the score now at 3-4 for the last nail-biting minutes, it was hard on the travelling fans, but Grilled held out easily and Falkbo was only too happy to send the ball into the clouds to while away the final seconds.