A sad day for the Grilled clubs began with a disastrous start by the Birds against III.6's The Sing Tigers, who capitalized on some amateurish defending to cruise to a 4-2 win that perhaps undersold their output. Grilled's not clicking well on the day destroyed what faint hopes they had, and although their finishing was actually pretty admirable on the few chances they won, it was not a shade on the rampant Tigers.
The Birds actually enjoyed an excellent record against The Sing Tigers' predecessors Siegmund United, having won all four meetings against them in Division Two. Some sixteen seasons had passed since then, however, and if Grilled's squad had changed beyond recognition, it was the more so for the Tigers, who were moreover under new management. Though not the most free-spending of clubs, they possessed quality particularly on their left flank, where the tandem of Edbert Szintye and Pavle Božinović had proven near-telepathic.
It didn't take long to be reiterated either, as a rash and unwarranted loose dribble by Neeraj Muthyala
in midfield had him get boxed out. Sensing weakness out wide, Božinović prodded it to a teammate, before sparking a mad rush inside the Grilled penalty area, in anticipation of a prompt return. A further quick wall pass after Archie Wozniak centered had him with a clear sight of goal, and his powerful volley was unsaveable.
Grilled pulled themselves together as best as they could, but it simply wasn't coming together for them, with simple layoffs going misplaced in midfield. Tigers weren't in much danger, if any, from the Birds' robotic movements, at least until Chu Xin Lee
broke the mould with a seemingly pointless run to the touchlines, and then a blind cross. That turned out to be plenty good enough for the expectant Islom Davlatov
, who slipped in behind a disbelieving Yuki Matsushima to level.
Any relief was extremely short-lived, as Tigers went back ahead on their next attack, as Edbert Szintye was left free to nod home Pietro Landtwing's inswinger to the back post. Landtwing was himself on the scoresheet three minutes later, as the normally-reliable Yuta Nakakita
somehow stroked it right at him, under zero pressure. Realising his mistake almost as soon as the ball left his feet, Yuta did all he could to chase the stray pass down, but to no avail as Landtwing rounded Valentin Batâr
to claim his prize.
It could have gotten a lot worse, very quickly, and Batâr could only thank his lucky stars that Manfred Leogrande's spectacular long-range strike soared marginally high, in the 29th minute. Djan Bacelar
could only fling his hands about impotently as his players appeared confused as to what tack to take, with even captain Moey Xin Seng
looking slightly lost, as he tried to come to grips with a game flow that was clearly going against the Birds.
The fifteen minutes' interval probably suited Grilled much more than it did their opponents, then, and they did come out with a more coherent plan in mind. Slowing the rhythm proved beneficial despite their need to chase the game, and Florus Romijn
would not repeat his mistake from the first half of overrunning an incoming cross. This time, he collected it calmly, cutting across Eusebio Dall'Igna with his next touch, before lobbing English goalie Kenneth Werribee beautifully on the long diagonal.
Tigers were adapting too, however, and they would actively seek to counter the Birds with irregular pace. Several minutes later, Grilled would have another close escape as Bogusław Kałus' attempt clattered up and back off the crossbar, which developed into a heart-stopping moment as neither Davlatov nor Yuki Matsushima were willing to pull out. In the end, Davlatov's high boot opened a nasty gash on the Japanese fullback's forehead, which left the path open for Italian reserve Gandolfo Nini to come in.
Davlatov would receive his third booking of the season for that, but given the state of the match, he could hardly afford to rein himself in. The Tigers were holding firm, however, and it was Grilled who were consistently flirting with conceding a fourth, as Landtwing's masterful manipulation of the last man kept the Birds on edge defensively.
That fourth would eventually come in the 78th minute, as Grilled were obliged to take on ever more risks in search of a vital equaliser. Moey's ill-judged turn after an equally questionable pass put him in trouble led to a wild breakaway from the Tigers midfield, and after some quick interpassing, Bogusław Kałus slid a grounder beyond Batâr to book his club's ticket for the next round.
It could have been five, as an unintentional handball by a covering Cyril Künzler
resulted in a late penalty for the Tigers, but Landtwing exhibited some small mercy by placing it inches wide.