Verge Of The Grail
The Singapore Cup finals were reached in the most empathic way possible, as Grilled drubbed ex-series mate Chinablack 5-0 in a lopsided semi-finals. In stark contrast with the previous two rounds where last season's finalists took Grilled to the wire, Chinablack appeared drained after their titanic slaying of Winning Eleven. But for some poor finishing by Grilled's strikers, especially Martinsson who still managed a hat-trick, they could have been embarrassed further.
The roaring full-house of over one hundred and forty thousand spectators at the gargantuan Fortress Tactics was the biggest that either team had ever entertained. Chinablack started off with a conservative 4-4-2, while Grilled signalled their intention to attack with the inclusion of impatient Dutch winger Hidde van Liere
. With the preliminaries over, Chinablack won the toss, but that was about the only thing that went right for them this day.
Chinablack had pegged their hopes on hometown hero Hsiao Tzung, who won a recent call-up to the Singapore national team. Recognizing that, wily stopper Kek-Tjiang was detailed to do a man-mark on him, stifling the already undermanned Chinablack midfield.
The first goal wasn't long in arriving, with van Liere simply outrunning the defence as he soaked in the carnival-like atmosphere. Roy Peoples, the American defender who put Winning Eleven out, couldn't hold van Liere back, and for once the Dutchman managed a superb cross while on the run. Cao slipped behind the defence and nodded the first goal past ex-U20 keeper Mohd Zaharul.Cao Wai-Kin
could have driven the nail in, as Paullin extended the backline on the other wing as well. Keeping the ball a bit longer than he had to, he skittered all the way into the Chinablack six-yard box before blindly chipping into the area in front of goal. Cao happened to be in the right place at the right time, but was bitterly disappointed as his smash at the ball sent it whizzing over the crossbar.
That was the highlight of Paullin's short run, as he limped to the touchline in agony after half an hour. He turned out to have hidden a minor muscle tear from the club physios so he could participate in the semis, but will now ironically be forced to sit in the stands for the finals. Friend-rival Dani Spirig
Chinablack actually looked the more dangerous of the sides when they countered, ex-English U20 striker Niall Nelis fractionally offside while clear on goal once. The game effectively ended as a contest before they could reach the half-time break, though, as Martinsson fed on a silly refusal to clear the ball out for a corner, and then Bona directed a Spirig cross into goal from a full-fledged assault.
While Chemistry managed to force extra time from being two-nil down, Chinablack had far worse odds since they were wholly unused to hitting sides on the break, generally dominating their Division Three league. van Liere was bearhugged by Ronald Ratas in the box in the 62nd minute, but Martinsson's sterile penalty was well saved by Zaharul.
The miss would have been painful had Grilled not been so far ahead, as was his blunder minutes later when he slugged a free shot way off target. Fans were left wondering if, having reached his 200th career goal with that first-half strike, Martinsson was done for the day.
Absolutely not, as he completed his 150th goal for Grilled, his 75th Cup goal and his 20th career hat-trick with a double whammy in the 70th and 78th minute. Clean-living Jon Andrea Rottman
collected a rare yellow card in the mostly-tensionless minutes of play after the fourth goal, with Grilled clearly through.