Sailors Too Strong
Cano Can Do
Grilled's Singapore Cup journey ended with a 0-3 loss to II.3 leaders Marina Sailors today, and while they could claim to be slightly unfortunate to not at least score, the Sailors' rather more-balanced approach put them in good stead.
It would be the Birds' first meeting with Marina, although Farmer Bunnies had suffered two defeats against them in III.5 some eleven seasons ago. Hari Chettiar's side had won all their matches thus far, very convincingly at that, and in Darius Demea and Iginio Cano they had a first-choice strike pairing that could unlock any defence on their day.
Against that, Grilled's core could not help but be viewed as slightly lightweight in comparison, and while Moey Xin Seng
was his usual domineering self, his actual play didn't quite live up to his own exacting standards. Despite that, a sneaky shove on Gerome Bolko by the Grilled captain was parlayed into a neat through pass in the seventh minute, but Ramón Galarreta decisively touched Chu Xin Lee
's piledriver onto the bar with his fingertips.
It only got harder after that miss as Sailors' midfield clamped up, with their forward movements delegated almost exclusively to Mohd Umar Najib. Although this made their attacks rather predictable, it also meant that the Birds got few chances to break if at all, and Sailors certainly didn't appear to be in any great hurry.
Grilled's wingers had instinctively folded in to prop up their midfield, blunting their edge further, and it was not until the 38th minute that they got a proper sniff. Florus Romijn
had with some difficulty finally gotten around former local youth international MJ Thomas on the left, opening things up sufficiently for Iman Eshrafi
to deliver. Moey's headed finish was pretty pointless, however, and Galarreta would nonchalently pluck it out of the air.
had been lauded for his exchange of Yuki Irie
out for Chan Ze Han
in the last league match, but this was clearly impossible in this case, with Chan already huffing his way through up top. Instead, Hoàng Trung Quá
entered for Yuki in defence, which turned out to probably not have been a good trade.
While certainly exhibiting his perennial calm, Hoàng was unfortunately simply a foot slow in his matchups. Marina Sailors didn't take too long to seize upon that, and after some promising dribbling, Iginio Cano fanned wide to send a short cross for Mohd Umar Najib to redirect home.
This might have injected some urgency into Mohammad Ramli Saliman
, going by how he laid into Malcolm Chun on the restart. Sailors continued in the ascendancy after the yellow card, and MJ Thomas skinned all comers on his flank in the 64th minute, before pumping in a superb cross. Hoàng was nowhere to be seen, as Cano soared high over him to meet it with a massive header.
It was a disappointing return for the Birds, who had given so much, and received little; their sorry state was underlined by Chan Ze Han
's continued poor luck, as he missed a fine lob marginally in the 68th, only for that to turn into a counter that Gavin Harrison promptly scored from. At that, Noubaryan could only shake his head with an ironic smile.
Moey would be booked as his frustration led to some meaningless shirt-tugging on Bolko, not that the German midfielder minded too much, with the outcome all but set in stone. Sailors knew well what that had to do to see this one out, and that was - not much.