|Season 54||W||4 - 6||Cup|
|Season 51||L||3 - 5||Tournament (Playoffs)|
|Season 51||W||3 - 4||Tournament (Group Phase)|
Return To Normality
Strikers Break Strike
Grilled awoke from their stupor with a start, as they defeated Random Curiosity FC 6-3 to advance to the semifinals of the Singapore Masters. They flirted with letting it slip through their fingers again as Random Curiosity FC demolished their two-goal advantage, but the Birds' forwards awoke in the last ten minutes to close the match out spectacularly.
Random had done decently in II.4 since that Cup final loss, and while they have just achieved their best ever league finish - runners-up behind Shining Lights, they had not quite recaptured their Cup form. Six from that memorable day were present this time for Random, while the Birds had but two changes, with midfielders Lee Lee Hao
and Clément Meyer
in the place of Ling Fuquan
and Zhao Jing Wei
That glorious day must have felt like a long, long time ago for the Grilled fans, however, at least those who bothered to turn up after that horrendous 0-7 collapse against ATKM. The coaching staff had professed to have gotten the worst of it out of the players' systems, and so it appeared as Grilled moved about competently, if not too smoothly, from kick-off.
Despite those promising signs, it all looked very wobbly indeed when the team in orange took the lead after just six minutes. 21 year-old Cameroon forward Yannick Chiangeh hadn't quite hit it off since his S$4 million transfer from GGkia Crew, and he cozied up to the Random fans with his fine drive after shrugging Lee Lee Hao
The opposing supporters were only too happy to remind the Grilled contingent of Wednesday in their songs, and a repeat was not out of the question as Grilled were all at sea for a while. Some timely screaming from the sidelines by an unamused Djan Bacelar
stopped the rot, however, and some neat footwork from Wong Ping Shun
forced Haji bin Omar into a premature tackle, and a yellow card.
The Birds remained understandably low on self-confidence, and needed a shot in the arm from somewhere; the man to provide it was French national Clément Meyer
, who displayed admirable initiative with his frequent shooting, which served more to reassure his teammates than anything. One of them even came off in the 21st minute, to great relief from the Grilled camp.
Now certain that they could actually score, the Birds went back to their old swashbuckling ways, and their edge in midfield began to tell. Low Aik Jia
took a break from engaging Dean Nightingale to probe the inside, and was unhindered until Nicholas Cavalchi took it off him. However, Tian Yonghang
was following in his wake, and immediately scooped it past Jan Skjæveland.
This was much more like it for the Grilled faithful, who began taunting their now-glum counterparts back. The Random fans rose to the occasion, but their team would fall further behind as Wong Ping Shun
picked a wildly-gyrating free-kick out of his expanding toolkit. Skjæveland was put off by the unpredictable movement of the seam-hit football, and could only watch it move out of his reach at the last instant.
3-1 at half-time was much better than the Birds fans had dared hope for, and thus they were prepared to cut their side some slack when they conceded early in the second half. As a consolation, it was really a very nice setup from the Random engine room, and Haji could hardly miss after Chiangeh had forced Wong to the side.
The fixture was becoming very interesting, much more so after Lee Lee Hao
felt that he had been cheated of a legitimate goal. The referee didn't buy Lee opinion that his volley had passed completely under the crossbar before Skjæveland batted it back out, and his disgruntlement boiled over when no foul was awarded despite Danilo De Sario holding him back a few minutes later.
Taking matters into his own hands, a by-now enraged Lee made for the Italian, and on the next opportunity, sent him sprawling to the ground without any subtlety. Official-in-charge Martial Desreux was not having any of that, and immediately inserted himself between the two antagonists, while making it very clear to Lee that he had to go off.
Random's chances looked far brighter against ten men, but Grilled adapted sufficiently to prevent an equaliser, helped by some astonishing reflex stops by Wong Tian Han
. Eng Min Keong's 80th minute substitution putting Romanian youngster Alexandru Bandi on proved a masterstroke, though, as he assisted Eng Soon Lee with a headed knockdown on his first touch.
Talk of a comeback had barely begun, when Chow Ying Lee
restored the Birds' lead. Making for Random's goal via the most direct possible route upon kickoff, Chow put himself in the ideal position for a through pass within seconds, and Zhu Changchun
obliged with an inch-perfect forward ball.
This was not what the Random supporters were expecting; Grilled for their part were hardly about to let up, and continued running at the now-shaken opposing backline. Fathi Habita couldn't catch Low Aik Jia
after the latter broke through with his acceleration, and although Skjæveland threw himself successfully at Low's feet before he could strike, all that achieved was to send the ball to Tian, who stylishly circled the retreating Jovan Novaković before walking it in.
There was still enough time for Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
to append his name to the scoresheet, thanks to a wonderful chip, that finally convinced the Random fans to start leaving en masse.