Grilled Birds 6 - 2 Haha
|Season 60||L||4 - 3||Qualification|
Hit By The Vik Stick
Grilled Birds achieved their most memorable victory in many a season today, as they put S-League club Haha away by four clear goals, to advance to the last sixteen of the Singapore Cup. Cliché as it may sound, the win must be attributed to a fantastic team effort, made all the more remarkable by the absence of Florus Romijn
on the left.
Few gave the Birds much of a prayer, given Haha's recent form - a 5-0 whitewash of Marina Bay Sands in the last round, followed by a 2-0 shutout of the legendary Be Champions FC on Sunday. A narrow 0-1 loss to reigning double winners Parkway Paladins before that could hardly count for much against them either, and former Grilled star Ang Leong Kum made no secret of his confidence, in his first match against Grilled since leaving.
All that positive build-up for the S-Leaguers wouldn't last long, as it happened. Much of the audience had yet to settle in at Olympic Lyons Park, when they were stunned by Vikram Mudaliar
's thunderbolt from the blue. Weaving in, then out to the right, the danger he represented seemed to have passed under the watchful eye of former national defender Philip Sing... only for Mudaliar to whip a strike with almost no backlift, straight in at the near post.
Not many had remarked on Gastone Madeddu's decision to play 33 year-old Tang Kum Guang in goal with regular custodian Thahir Faizol nursing a twisted ankle, rather than looking to the market for a temporary replacement, but the wisdom of that contingency plan was definitely coming into question. Tang's already-fragile composure would take another hit in the seventh minute, when Mudaliar again paraded his ability to shoot hard with next to no warning. Tang would again try to scramble, but Mudaliar's accuracy was again simply too on point.
Madeddu would start pacing the sidelines at that, but his hands were tied, going by Haha's painfully-thin bench. It was Grilled that were firing on all cylinders as if they were the favourites, and Kalki Parvathaneni
made it 3-0 in the 19th minute, with Cyril Künzler
feeding him coming off a near-miss. A couple of minutes later, Moey Xin Seng
got in on the scoring, bullying his way down the middle to knock the fourth roughly past a flustered Tang, who looked as if he wanted to be anywhere else but here.
This was getting beyond the wildest dreams of the Birds fans, who were only too eager to share in the on-pitch frenzy of their heroes. It was all Haha veteran Vignesh Iyer could do to instill some belief in his teammates, as he took over leadership of the team from midfield. Haha did have too much quality to be resigned to suffering in silence, and they would stabilize the match forcibly with conservative passing around the back, before Peh Ting Da pulled one back after overrunning Yuki Irie
That didn't exactly signify that the tide had turned, though, and an ebullient Grilled continued to be by far the more inspired of the duo. Striker Arif Hadice somehow found himself in his own area trying to tackle Vikram Mudaliar
in the 40th minute, and he hurt himself in the process of giving away a penalty. The Haha faithful seated behind their goal could only watch gloomily, as Cyril Künzler
buried it down the middle.
It was a whole new ball game in the second half, as Haha finally shook off the trepidation that had enveloped them since Mudaliar's first goal. Their midfield would begin to exhibit the astuteness that had undone Be Champions FC, with Ang Leong Kum revealing glimpses of the inimitable creativity that had attracted Grilled to sign him from Jeti.
got on the wrong end of Ang's tricks in the 54th, and was booked for a late hack at his shins, to Hovaness Noubaryan
's visible disagreement. Haha continued to construct plays with quiet determination, and Valtteri Turpeenniemi found Arif Hadice sprinting into space, with a monster hoof from just outside his own area. The Turkish forward exhibited excellent control to trap and strike in one deft movement, but Massoud Dob
just about deflected it high.
The Birds could afford to cool their heels somewhat, but they weren't totally passive either. A bit of unsightly playacting from Kalki Parvathaneni
saw them awarded a free-kick 69 minutes in, but not even the most conscientious Grilled fan could protest too much, after Chan Ze Han
flipped the strategically-short delivery home. That was the last straw for one group of Haha supporters, who were shown on camera getting up to leave as Chan wheeled off in celebration.
Arif Hadice would get another back some minutes later, as his hard work was rewarded with a dash and chip, but Grilled were quite simply too far ahead. Haha would target Yuki Irie
in their closing attacks, but the Grilled players rallied in support of their aging vice-captain, and romped breezily over the finishing line.