Rule Of Two
Grilled Birds and Arcturules nullified each other in an unexpectedly engrossing match at The Cooking Pot, with the fellow strugglers adopting diagrammatically opposing approaches; the visitors perhaps showed the Birds too much respect with a starting 5-5-0, which they would hold to despite Grilled continuing to field their new-generation midfield in the league.
would make his slightly-rushed return to the lineup, but there would no room for Vincent Spörcken, who had just reached his century of professional strikes. Two-goal hero Joachim Kapecki would again captain his side out as right winger, though, while Mikael Åhnbeck dropped down deep, as Arcturules went for full flexibility going forward.
Perhaps due to both setups being improvised in a way, the game soon threw up plays and highlights that should not have appeared in more disciplined affairs. The Birds' youngsters were particularly eager to stamp their mark, and the impetuousness of Chu Xin Lee
nearly paid off, when he cut ahead of the probably better-positioned Tian Yonghang
, to steal a snap header. Fortunately for former youth international Quah Woon Qiang, it came a fraction wide.
Tian wasn't miffed either, and in fact quite appreciated his midfield willing to put in the legs. Arcturules were still dealing with most of their lively if guileless efforts just dandy, but Grilled would get closer. 29 minutes in, Kalki Parvathaneni
was only a hair's breadth from scoring as it took Ranga Myriyala to scramble his shot off the line. The danger hadn't quite passed, and the next time Grilled lifted it into the box, Rinor Isufi
was on hand to volley it right into the net.
It was a thoroughly acceptable half-time score for the modest home crowd, who by all indications had been expecting somewhat less. Djan Bacelar
would replace Tian with Mohammad Ramli Saliman
during the interval, again hinting at where his true priorities lay. Arcturules' Virgil Bogdan, despite also being involved in the same Sapphire Challenger Cup competition, couldn't quite settle for a loss, however, and the restart saw his players reconfigure themselves somewhat.
Åhnbeck returning to his best position did immediately lift the visitors in an attacking sense, and he would be instrumental in weaving together the Arcturules' counterstrike, the next time the Birds lost it just outside their penalty area. Picking his passes with care, the Swede completely switched the direction of the incursion with a bold reverse to the up-and-coming NS Kumble, who thoughtfully sidled past Yuki Irie
before dropping the equaliser in.
The fans were certainly getting their money's worth out of this one, as Moey Xin Seng
exhibited his natural leadership abilities, in taking charge of teammates many years his senior. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have too much to work with, although it might have gone better had he been more alert to Gennady Dvorak
calling for the ball, on several occasions.
A hard-earned draw was looking like the most likely outcome, when Arcturules made their move with about ten minutes left. Having cleverly conserved their energy, they would unleash it out of nowhere, and completely routed Grilled's callow midfield with a sustained charge through the middle. Chu's lack of upper body strength came to attention as he all but bounched off Kwiryn Skutecki in the buildup, and Kumble made sure after Valentin Batâr
spilled a difficult save.
The home support wouldn't have the time to be disappointed this time, for once, as Grilled struck back immediately. As expected, taking the lead was the signal for Arcturules to withdraw fully, but they hadn't counted on Hisyam Soleh Zain totally making a hash of a routine clearance, instead knocking it straight to Isufi. Huang Ah Yeng tried to cover, but this had left them completely exposed on the left, and Mohammad Ramli Saliman
would poke it in after a chaotic rumble in front of goal.
This lent new belief to the Birds, and Arcturules were lucky to survive, with Kalki swishing a threatening looping effort slightly over in the 87th minute. The push continued unabated, and would only be interrupted when Arcturules defender Ang Nie Qiang laid full-on into Yuki Irie
. The home fans were outraged, but more at the referee apparently not accounting the stoppage into time added on, than Ang escaping with a yellow. Former Arcturules player Yuta Nakakita
would come on for Yuki, but he didn't even get a touch before it was all over.