|Season 57||W||4 - 1||Qualification|
|Season 37||W||1 - 0||Qualification|
Supersub Sinks Kim
One Touch Chan
The Birds made it three wins in three meetings against Kim Tae Hee FC, though their first in league competition; the other two - taking place twenty seasons apart - had been to deny KTH ascension to the S-League, and while the stakes had been somewhat lessened, this fixture provided no less fireworks than one might have expected.
There was certainly some history involved, with Kim Tae Hee FC having, like Grilled, won three Singapore Cups, a feat that no more than five clubs have achieved over the years. To this could be added seven seasons in the top flight, though they were markedly less successful in that, only finishing in the top half once. More recently, their fortunes had, again as with Grilled, taken something of a dip, and they had just returned to Division Two for the second time under Narcis Cercel's stewardship.
The visitors had retained the uncompromising counterattacking culture that they had adopted by their last clash with Grilled some twelve years back, though all the names had turned over since then. Footballing-wise, it had been a pretty bad fortnight for Kim Tae Hee FC, as they suffered four defeats in unbroken succession. Goalless league shutouts by Mia San and Robbie Football Club aside, they were understandably bundled out of the national cup by Parkway Paladins, before an Emerald Challenger Cup exit on penalties to Zambree F.C. on Wednesday.
That last had at least seen former national U-20 defender Raju Sharma score, for a lack of goals had severely constrained KTH's potential. They had long committed to a fairly-unique forwardless formation, of course, and it was one that put heavy pressure on their midfielders to come up with the goods. This expectation was in turn borne in large part by homegrown favourite Alok Jagannath, who at the tender age of twenty had become a do-it-all lynchpin for his team.
He would mostly live up to his billing too, and after debuting Uruguayan right winger Alejandro Llosa won them a corner in the seventh minute, Jagannath would direct it on for Bartolomé Nil, who wasn't paying enough attention. He would then get himself suspended for the return fixture after a burst of activity from the home side. Seeing as how Künzler and Davlatov were that far from scoring, however, it was difficult to blame Jagannath overmuch for allowing his side to catch a breather.
It was still frantic for the visitors, who could really have done with a certified ball-holder deep in Grilled's half, and Bulgarian fullback Ivan Zhekov would tie up another precious minute recovering from the aftermath of a slide in on Florus Romijn
. The restart however led to Grilled's opener, with Moey Xin Seng
sliding it through to Kalki Parvathaneni
. Kalki considered the more-sensible route of a cross until the last instant, when he instead floated it - just - over Paul Târlă, ever so delightfully.
Polish referee Ryszard Pikulec then threw Kim Tae Hee a lifeline, in being slow getting out of Kalki's way as he resumed tearing it up in the middle. The resulting weak shot was booted high up the left by a relieved Târlă, and Bartolomé Nil needed no second invitation to chase it. KTH had plenty of willing bodies up, what with them recognizing that this was likely the best chance they were getting for awhile, and Zabidi Faysal came through the press of bodies to level 1-1.
was apoplectic at seeing a likely two-goal lead evaporate due to the referee's unwitting interference, and unloaded on the poor blameless fourth official. The game had to go on nevertheless, and this time fortune swung Grilled's way, as Cyril Künzler
's high knee to Bartolomé Nil's groin area went unpunished. The Kim Tae Hee defence were up in arms, but Bilal Mohammad Harun
played to the whistle, and would have scored had Târlă not leapt clear across the goalmouth to reach his low drive.
The second half started much more sedately, probably due to how much all the preceding bombast had taken out of the players. KTH's increased defence in depth certainly didn't encourage expansive running from the Birds, and the best that Grilled could muster for twenty minutes was a prolonged dribble by Moey, that was turned into a chance for Chu Xin Lee
to take on the half-volley. It wasn't half bad either, nearly finding the far post.
Chu would finally require brief medical attention in the 74th minute, having taken the brunt of the defenders' rough attentions from being Grilled's most advanced man. He clearly expected to be taken off from his reaction at seeing the board come out, but as it turned out, it would be Bilal who would make way for Chan Ze Han
And what a tactical masterstroke that was. Chan had no sooner taken up his post, when Kalki Parvathaneni
released the free-kick to Florus Romijn
. The Belgian took it almost to the corner flag before nailing it as hard as he could back towards the box, and there Chan was at the near post, meeting it just so
with the outside of his right boot. Târlă couldn't even react appreciably, as the ball whizzed past his face.
One touch, one goal it was for Grilled's great youth hope, as The Cooking Pot responded in kind. Kim Tae Hee FC weren't conceding just yet, though, and Cercel tried to arrange some magic of his own, by introducing Rafał Chuchro. The Pole didn't do badly on the defensive end, as he immediately contributed towards denying Künzler a follow-up knockout, but that wasn't enough for KTH at this point.
The Birds nearly conspired to throw it all away, first through Davlatov's extremely-silly two-footed lunge on Raju Sharma, which he could well have been sent off for. Next was Yuta Nakakita
somehow taking it upon himself to rampage into the opposition box. Yuta did force a superb save from Paul Târlă, but he had also left half of Grilled's territory at KTH's mercy on the counter. Gilbert Webb
was left with the impossible task of tracking three men, and Kok Lee Kwang had only himself to blame, for not even getting his strike on target.
Noubaryan was screaming to get Yuta off at that, but KTH were certainly not waiting for Yuki Irie
to get changed, having sensed weakness in the Grilled psyche. It was Llosa who brought the ball up the right side this time, and he spotted Salah Abd El Razzak calling for it on the near side. The cross was good, the header stiff and right to the top corner... but Massoud Dob
earned his keep with a dramatic one-handed punch at the last instant.
Grilled took the hint, and Yuki dragged out his arrival as long as he dared. Which was long enough, as the match ended with all three points in the Birds' pockets.