13th Cup Champions
Day Of Ola
The cumulation of ten seasons of toil by Grilled Birds, their first major trophy - the Singapore Cup.
The lead-up to the historic match involved Grilled breaking the bank for "Sid" Zywczyn, and FC RaZer Infernus piecing together an intricate deal that saw longtime servant Heikki Leinonen's delayed departure, raising the cash for Portuguese phenom winger Bruno Domingues. Already Singapore's highest-valued team, RaZer's purchase completed a dream side.
Marginal favourites due to the weekend collapse of a weakened RaZer side to Cantik FC, it was nevertheless expected to be a closely contested final. Curiously enough Fortress Tactics failed to sell out, but with over a hundred thousand in attendance, the gravity of the occasion was still overwhelming.
Falkbo won the toss from opposing captain Terje Dahl, and the game began all too soon. Fine weather promised the best of conditions for delicate skill, and Martinsson began in imperious fashion by taking the ball past two men. RaZer's ex-internationals in midfield headed off his run, but Martinsson had set the stage for a brilliant day.
While RaZer was strong all over the pitch, their quality in midfield was especially astounding. They could count no less than four world-class players out of five there, with Domingues dominating Grilled's weaker left wing. Current national winger Gao Thanh-long created the first real chance, hitting in a cross despite being guarded by Sid. Domingues was free as he tried for the bottom corner with his header, but miscued it.
He was not to be denied three minutes later, as he outclassed Bona with his burst of pace. Living up to his S$750 000/week wage demands, he then left Falkbo for dead with a stylish body fake and finally beat Sulaiman with a solid knee-high blazer. As Domingues leaped into the terraces behind the goal to celebrate, Grilled were left to consider the implications of letting in an early goal.
Grilled however ran the opposing midfield ragged, as Siu-Yue and Kek-Tjiang played the game of their lives. They noticeably outplayed a center three that was superior on paper, as van Liere provided the thrust. In the 21st minute, the Dutch winger controlled an awkward lob gracefully and got it across to Wai-Kin, who clipped it over Mak Jiao-Long to cancel Domingues' strike.
Back on level terms, the game turned tactical as both sides warily emphasized possession. Grilled put together a spectacular attack right the half-hour mark, which ended with Han Kok's attempt from fifteen metres stopped by Patel's outstretched hand. Patel protested his innocence, with some justification as he had his back turned at the moment. Seeing that the ball could well have gone in had the interception not been made, the referee finally decided to go ahead and award the penalty.
All eyes turned on regular taker Ola Martinsson
, but to universal surprise the Swede nudged debutant Sid. There was a slight tremor as Sid laid the ball on the spot to sporadic cheering, and he chose to hit the ball hard to the bottom right. Jiao-Long guessed correctly and went that way, only for Sid to adjust his sights at the last instant to bring the ball above and behind the flailing keeper, and into the net. 1-2.
It was a tenuous lead to take into the second half, with Thanh-long and Domingues creating major problems for Grilled's backline. Grilled were almost drawn into protracted defense, and only a moment of individual magic by Ola provided a valve for the pressure.
Taking the ball deep in RaZer's half, the wily Swede took a huge risk with an exaggerated feint on the uncomprehending Wang Wee-Hwa. The ex-youth international, a homegrown product who only recently returned after several seasons in Sweden and Canada, probably didn't believe anyone could pull off something that outrageous in a Cup final.
As it was, giving up a couple of metres didn't look critical and would probably not matter in most cases, but this time Martinsson boldly went for broke with a staggering strike. They say that if you try often enough, one will go in, and this one was certainly unstoppable. Jiao-Long, who actually had a very good game, did all he could, but it was beyond him.
The momentum clearly shifted over to Grilled, who again went close through Wai-Kin and Martinsson while holding RaZer back. There weren't many counters from the opponents, who had a two-goal deficit to overcome, as Falkbo's experience in defence dictated a wise no-nonsense policy, sending balls into the stands whenever there was any doubt.
It was all over in the 85th minute, as van Liere mowed past his marker and struck a ground cross that Wai-Kin could only deflect. Siu-Yue was quick enough to ram it back into the penalty area, and Martinsson couldn't miss with the ball at his feet from six metres. Fittingly, it was also his 150th competitive goal for his side.
The final minutes, however, were still nerve-wracking. Grilled's men hurled themselves at the ball with increasing intensity, coming close to being cautioned on a few occassions. Thanh-long embarked on one last lung-bursting run in the 93rd minute, and was about to cross when the whistle went. Grilled had done it.