Gaiety At Jays
Tian Does Job
Grilled earned their first competitive victory in two and a half months today, as they took Toa Payoh fourth division side Jaywalkers78 for four goals, in the opening round of the Singapore Cup. While a long way off from the double-digit thrashings of yesteryear, this result was arguably more important than any of those, in view of the circumstances.
It was not as if it was some random occasion that nobody cared about, either; the Jaywalkers had built up a fanbase, and their stadium was close to packed for the game, with over 340000 paying customers turning up. While Rafael Torralva led the team out, it was clear that the home faithful were pinning their hopes on adopted son Sebastiaan van den Hout, who had been outstanding for them in previous contests.
Certainly, this would be nothing like Grilled's previous first-round walkovers against rag-tag part-timers. Jaywalkers were experienced professionals in their own right, and the Birds had to fight just to hold their own in midfield. Still, the little bit extra that they had showed, and they began ekeing out small, compounding advantages as the game rolled on.
The breakthrough arrived in slightly boring fashion in the 23rd minute, with Gene Filippone
and Neeraj Muthyala
combined for the one-two punch from a corner. It was a classic big man's goal as Muthyala cut across the home side's defensive outposts, to meet Filippone's dropping it in at the near side.
There should be no playing down Tian Yonghang
's contributions before that, as the 38 year-old captain ran about like he was ten years younger, even throwing himself into a sliding tackle on Tobias Zierk, that left the German stunned. If his body had slowed, his speed of thought remained sharp as ever, and had it not been for Torralva reading his intentions in the 33rd minute, he would have beaten Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim's record for cup goals outright then.
That would only delay the inevitable for a few minutes. After a fired-up Yuta Nakakita
likewise got booked for a rash tackle, Grilled resumed their push forward, and Moey Xin Seng
got off a tasty lob towards Tian. The skipper judged the angles, backtracked a couple of steps, and swung a boot to head level for his 111th cup goal, one definitely worthy of the highlight reel.
Jaywalkers could hardly believe it, and their supporters willed their team on with encouragement from the stands. It was perhaps not the time for that, however, and they found themselves underhanded as Grilled came through the centre. Chu Xin Lee
knocked it first-time towards goal as Ang Leong Kum
's diagonal pass came in, which was just enough to catch the luckless Chris Wong off guard.
The hosts didn't take well to that, and although van den Hout tried to keep them ticking over, and they remained with a fair share of possession, the fluidity was gone. Mexican striker Antonio Iglesias often had to retreat into his own half to call for the ball, which said it all.
Tian on the other hand was going from strength to strength, and he cemented his reputation for picking on mistakes, as he robbed a momentarily distracted Petre Grigalashvili in the 51st minute. Before anyone else could react, Tian had taken it into the penalty area, and took Wong out with a subtle swivel of the hips.
Wong would later salvage a poor outing somewhat with a spectacular stop from Mohammad Ramli Saliman
a little bit after the hour mark, but his side had given up the ghost long before that.