Kaijam were one of the few local clubs to have a longer history than Grilled, and as such it was something of a wonder that the Birds had never played the former national cupwinners. This would change today, and the historic meeting would end well for Grilled, if at the cost of some pain on their part.
Though their cup glory has seen been followed by a long stay in the third division, with occassional dips into the fourth, they had kept up a reputation as one of Sentosa's premier sides. With current icon Gino Dascoli marshalling a five-man defence, they were also exactly the sort of team that the Birds have had trouble with, as many pundits noted.
They seemed very justified from how it went in the beginning, with the hosts very unlucky not to take the lead in the sixth minute, after Paweł Dutczak pulled his strike wide after being put clean through by a wonderful David Kolchenko touch.
was furious with his defence for that lapse, and it didn't get much better. Some ten minutes later, Grilled's corner - from Clark Won
's initial effort - was cleared downfield, and Yuta Nakakita
had no idea what was going on with Kolchenko waltzing in behind him, easy as anything. Again, however, kaijam's finishing failed them.
Mohammad Ramli Saliman
then tried to win a free-kick after coming out second in a tussle just outside the kaijam penalty area, but was instead slapped with a booking. Grilled were however actually improving, and after they focused more on their attacks, Tian Yonghang
drew another good save out of Svein Werner, with an off-the-cuff attempt.
The initially free-flowing nature of the match would change as the teams began to turn to physicality to resolve the stalemate, and after multiple warnings on both sides, Gigi Lanzotti of kaijam was booked for shoving. This had little impact on getting the players to hold back, and Valentin Batâr
would have to leave after having his right calf gashed by a stiff but legal challenge from Kolchenko.
did at least fit in without too much disruption, and his immediate fielding of several tricky situations did much to instill belief in the Grilled backline. At the other end, Werner continued bailing kaijam out, backpedalling to tip a dipping Gene Fillipone free-kick over the bar.
Although Grilled were bossing possession, kaijam always gave off the air of being able to make it all count for naught with a single good counter, with Angolan attacking midfielder Paulo Baeta nearly getthing through more than once, after the break. Surveying the scene, Djan Bacelar
would put Ang Leong Kum
on for the slowing Tian, to which kaijam responded by sending Julien Duffaud's fresh legs on.
And Ang turned out to be just what the Birds needed. Having just scored the winner against Changi Genius in the league, he carried his burgeoning confidence over, and made a beeline for Clark Won
's cross as he rolled it over from the left. Chin Ah Min tried to intercept, but ended up having the ball hit between his legs, and beyond the unsighted Werner.
Seven minutes later, the substitute would once more be involved in another Grilled goal, throwing the defence off as his teammates pinged a frantic sequence of passes within the kaijam penalty area. Yuta Nakakita
hadn't had the best of days, but proved canny enough to stick it into the net, when it fell to him.
Needing to make up a two-goal deficit in the less than fifteen minutes remaining, the hosts could no longer bide their time, and their conviction actually posed some real trouble for Grilled. In fact, Kolchenko appeared to have pulled one back in the 83rd minute, but it would be disallowed for a blatant Chin foul on Chu Xin Lee
, in the buildup; the home fans were incensed, but there was no mistaking Chu's swollen wrist.
would replace Chu as he had his hand bandaged on the sidelines, and immediately went into all-out defensive mode. It would be enough, as the Birds got to the final whistle unscathed.