One Last Roar
Loud And Clear
Ang Leong Kum
's swansong for the Birds might not have cumulated in a goal, but he was definitely more invested than he had been for a long, long time. The former national youth midfielder produced many glimpses of the creativity that had prompted Bacelar to bring him home from Pakistan, and he garnered two assists despite being played at the back.
The small party of traveling fans knew all about his impending departure, and made it a point to razz up his last entrance. Ang reciprocated in turn, before switching his attention to more pressing matters. Although sealion were coming off a tough string of matches, with losses to Changi and ArSenal followed by a close-fought 2-3 defeat away to Really McCoys, their German midfield core of Hayri Eryılmaz and Curd Elbe hadn't made it easy for any of their opponents.
Facing them, Grilled fielded the usual suspects, with the exception of Ang taking over for the rested Gene Filippone
, and Kalki Parvathaneni
being dropped for Islom Davlatov
up front. The Birds' fears were realised, as sealion captured the initiative though stiff tackling and sharp passing. Fortunately for them, Andrzej Brunner's suspension had more or less halved their offensive potential, as the decline of Gregor Rumpl - Brunner's 37 year-old replacement - was starkly apparent.
This didn't keep sealion down for long, though, as their charismatic Italian target man Glauco Acampora simply took the added responsibility on. Starting only his fourth game for his new club, who had just sold off their ageing strike pair of Mihai Cristică and Alessandro Poschung, Acampora gave off the air of somebody who had been with them all along.
sealion began to really make inroads about fifteen minutes in, and after some exciting action on the left flank forced Hoàng Trung Quá
to put the ball behind, Irish captain David Kennedy sent their first corner to Eryılmaz at the near post. It looked as if he would have had a decent chance at scoring with a direct attempt, but he instead headed it backwards to Acampora, who knelt in disappointment after his instinctive volley went whistling just past the top corner.
Three minutes later, Acampora made up for that miss, slotting in after running onto Andrea Jörissen's clever release. It would however be the death knell of sealions' command over the direction of the game, as Grilled were jolted into finding themselves. With his back covered, Ang embarked on a mazy run, and who would be on the end of his pass but defensive partner Hoàng Trung Quá
? The defender surely has to be considered for a stint at striker by now, as his neat finish put him clear in second in the club scoring stakes.
That broke the dam, as sealion's defence was found wanting under proper pressure. Mohammad Ramli Saliman
curled a second past young goalie Gan Woon Su from the edge of the penalty area on the half-hour mark, and a bit later, Moey Xin Seng
nudged past Richard Žabčík to deposit a third, after Cyril Künzler
had scooped a skewed clearance back into the centre.
Ang Leong Kum
would then collect the first booking of his Grilled career as sealion attempted a response, with a quite brutal hit on Elbe; the German playmaker was left rolling in unmitigated agony, and it was with some relief that Ang realised that he was not being sent off in his farewell game.
In the greater scheme of things, however, this was definitely a boon for the Birds, as sealion's light bench meant that Hannes Neumann was forced to hand the teenaged Tay Dong Guang his pro debut. It was probably quite unfair for Tay to be thrown into the deep end without warning, but he did as best as he could in the circumstances, which mostly amounted to making a nuisance of himself to any Birds player in the vicinity.
This was enough to keep sealion's goal intact through half-time, but it remained that the hosts were now badly handicapped both in attack and midfield. Grilled got off to a flyer, and Ang coordinated a lengthy sequence of passes, to booing from the hostile crowd. To top it off, he sent an opportune flick over the top for Islom Davlatov
, and the Uzbek pounced on it with zeal for 4-1.
The Birds were in control and thoroughly enjoying themselves now, and Davlatov copped a near miss, following Florus Romijn
's burning of Boris Canales for pace. It was a difficult period for the hosts, with Tay steadily losing his grip against far more seasoned competitors. Eryılmaz was fighting a losing battle as he tried to patch moves together, and Chu Xin Lee
made it five in the 57th minute, after Oronzo Gravina was sold short by Tay's layoff.
It would take a miracle for sealion to mount a comeback after this, and while the complete deal was clearly not forthcoming, Peruvian winger Boris Canales remained good for a minor stir yet. There appeared no danger at all when Kennedy played it along the touchline to him within his own half, but a swish and a swagger brought him past Romijn, and then Saliman. Sensing that a fine break was on, Hayri Eryılmaz raced through the middle in support, and was on hand to beat Valentin Batâr
with an excellent grounder.
Chu Xin Lee
would cancel that out with an eye-catching overhead effort right in the next minute, however, and the home fans would have to accept that it was just not to be. sealion's revival would prove short-lived, as Grilled continued as if nothing hand happened, and it would take some diligent tracking back by Žabčík, to deny the unreasonably-prolific Hoàng a second goal.
The match had been cooling for some time by then, and Djan Bacelar
felt it only right not to risk Ang Leong Kum
any further, taking him off for Gene Filippone
in the 80th. Ang's departure was met with equal parts applause and jeers, to his evident amusement. Tian Yonghang
and Zhao Jing Wei
then made brief appearances, as Grilled saw the final minutes out leisurely.