Grilled's first league matchup against Pasir Ris club Red Chaos ended with a thrilling last-gasp pullback, as the Birds broke their duck against Chaos. The hosts appeared well set to record a third successive victory over Grilled, extending a nearly thirty season-long record, but Moey Xin Seng
underscored his importance to his team by putting his foot down at the very death.
Having won both their previous Cup fixtures against Grilled, and also bounced back against an admittedly denuded United Warrior Team after their thrashing by newbies, Red Chaos could face the Birds without undue apprehension. Old faithfuls Hung Kong Kum, Ow How Tze and Abdul Wahab Mohd Muslim were as always their bedrock, as they lined up in an offensive-leaning posture.
And what a start it would be for the last. Red Chaos made it a point to warm-up by playing the ball about in their own half, and after a couple of close shaves, they found Grilled's players spread thin in their haste to retrieve possession. Ow How Tze's gamble on a long pass was controlled awkwardly by a speeding Abdul Wahab, but his next touch brought forth a bizarre volley off the turf, and over an embarassed Valentin Batâr
The Red Chaos fans were all over that, and a shaken Birds side took their time regaining their composure. Looking rather unnatural and stiff in their movements, they muddled about without presenting any serious threat to Red Chaos' defence. Chaos were in turn rather less constrained, and Gan Loong Han flummoxed the far-pacier Florus Romijn
by positioning himself on the inside. Hung Kong Kum strode into the box, knowing what was coming, and duly nodded the cross in.
The cheering had scarcely died down when Ling Sze Ah somehow found himself knocking a third past a furious Batâr, and although Islom Davlatov
immediately reduced through a spirited dribble despite former national youth defender Yeoh Kian Loong's close attentions, it had the vibe of too little, too late.
Red Chaos certainly remained the more active and upbeat ones, as they carried on asking some very good questions of Grilled's organization. Although Davlatov had demonstrated his value by scoring, it remained that he was somewhat second-rate in the midfield arts, and Abdul Wahab would give him the slip all too cheaply in the 32nd minute. Ow How Tze would then ensure that their midfield would be fully represented on the scoreboard, as he threaded Abdul Wahab's pinpoint pass home.
Moey Xin Seng
seemed on the verge of exploding at that, but he managed to keep his emotions under check. And, while Grilled didn't particularly trouble Gioacchino Errico in the Chaos goal for the rest of the half, they at least became measureably more assured; in fact, they held the ball for an unbroken three minutes towards the end, before Antonio Hrabina's motion to blow the whistle encouraged Vikram Mudaliar
to take a pop.
With little left to lose, Hovaness Noubaryan
would go for broke, substituting Mohammad Ramli Saliman
in for Yuki Irie
, for the second half. In contrast, his opposite number Bulcsú Latabár quite understandably chose to protect his team's considerable lead, picking Goh Keng Kang to cover the defence in place of the more free-willed Abdul Wahab Mohd Muslim.
These decisions would slowly bleed over to their respective players, as Chaos gradually ceded their initiative to the Birds. On the whole, it was a bad day for defending, and Chu Xin Lee
scraped one in with 63 minutes gone. If Red Chaos weren't overly concerned yet, they would be just five minutes later, as Chu again came up through the middle, and fired the last volley of a sustained Grilled salvo for 4-3.
Perhaps realising his oversight, Latabár made to wake his team back up through several tactical repositionings, and it seemed to have the intended effect. Red Chaos emerged from their torpor almost instantly, and began to create chances anew. Batâr gave a good account of himself with a one-handed save off Goh Keng Kang, after the Chaos player had skinned Yuta Nakakita
with a lob over himself, but Kok Ze How was first to arrive, and re-extended Chaos' lead.
It seemed that all Grilled would have to show for their pains was faint praise for an attempted recovery, exemplified by Chu's instinctive reaction from the restart, a desperate forty-yarder - inspiring in a fleeting sense, but ultimately pointless. The Chaos fans probably thought so, as they transitioned eagerly into party mood, exhorting their team to put the screws on.
The expected script wouldn't play out this time, however. Ten minutes can be a very short or very long time in football, and today, it was the latter. Having already fought back from a near-hopeless position once, Grilled weren't discouraged from having another go at it, and although Moey Xin Send would be crowded out at the corner flag in the 84th minute, he made the most of Cyril Künzler
's practised corner, with a towering header over a mass of heads.
Chaos didn't quite know how to react, and Grilled weren't about to give them pause - their job was an exceedingly simple one, and their directness would pay off big. Figuring that there was nothing to be gained by dallying, they made an obvious concerted push, which the hosts couldn't respond adequately to. Yeoh Kian Loong might have taken Kalki Parvathaneni
down for a yellow, but he chose to stay on his feet... only to watch as the Grilled forward gleefully scooted off to equalise.
Having led for nearly the entirety of the match, Red Chaos were absolutely flabbergasted by how they let this one slip, and there was no recovering from this setback for them. The stadium was ominously silent as Grilled rushed the ball back to the centre circle, and their worst fears were realised when it was nicked by Florus Romijn
in no time. One could almost hear the gasps before Moey Xin Seng
rose majestically to meet Romijn's discovery - how could there be any other ending, after what had gone before?