Tight At The Back
A pleasing beginning for Grilled, as they defeated Herron on away ground for the first time ever. Herron had enjoyed uncommon luck in the preseason, selling academy all-round teenage star Othman bin Abu Samah to Heaven Skys for S$5.6 million, and then discovering 17 year-old Che Zambil Mohamad who will probably fetch around that amount too.
While their bankers will salivate over the unexpected windfall, their players may have wondered why some of that good fortune did not rub off onto them against Grilled. Time and again they had the Grilled goal at their mercy, but try as they might could not get the ball past Sulaiman. That Grilled scored two from a small handful of half-chances only made it worse.
Not much transfer movement for Herron in the off-season, with their biggest moves being for relegated Team Singapore's Nie Yong-chul, while 24 year-old Jens Hallell went to Germany. It was therefore two teams familiar with each other that ran out at Sky Ocean for the first league match of the season.
It was a 2-2 draw the last time for this fixture, less than a month ago; Again, Grilled took the lead. Young central defender Milanko ekularac was the weak spot in an otherwise finely balanced squad, and he was again culpable for the leak. He took out Martinsson belatedly, as Grilled captain Jörgen Falkbo
outflanked him and unhurriedly pushed the ball past Mohd Nadzir.
In truth Herron were the more ambitious of the two sides, as expected of the home team. In their quest to equalise, they displayed some masterful passing, which Grilled found impossible to contain. Just before the half-hour mark, Grilled held their collective breath as Sid barged into Herron's wingback Gábor Peto at the side of the penalty area.
Seeing that Peto got to his feet instantly, the referee played the advantage, but Peto supplied a terrible end to his fantastic dribbling by overshooting by a large margin.
Shu Chit-Fu also bemoaned his lack of composure as a corner fell to Othman bin Ib Berahim who expertly flicked it on to him. He had the time to make sure, but instead stabbed hurriedly at the ball and ended up sending it wide of the post. Schreinerbauers won a dangerous header inside the six-yard box soon after, but also didn't get it on target.
Sid lived up to his reputation as a tough tackler when he floored Chit-Fu in the 35th minute. By itself it wasn't a particularly bad challenge, but repeated fouls had sorely tried the referee's patience and he found himself being flashed the yellow card.
59 minutes on, Herron saw their best chance of the second half. Chit-Fu sprinted from an outside position and put all his acceleration into his shot, unleashing the sort of wild strike that every goalkeeper fears. Indeed, Sulaiman could never have gotten to that, but Sid happened to be in the way and was fast enough to get his thigh in the way.
Knowing that the match was slipping away, Herron turned more physical, and Bona got the worst of a collision with Jähnisch in the 70th minute. He indicated a pain in his lower leg after getting over the initial stun, but it turned out to be just a minor sprain. He would play out the remainder of the match.
van Liere, quiet for most of the game but diligent in his defensive duties for once, lit the game up with a Martinssonesque try from thirty metres out, on the right flank. The lottery-type effort came startlingly close, as Abd Rauf Mohd Nadzir was left scrambling across only to see the ball miss by inches.
Hopes for a favourable result were dashed a couple of minutes later, though, as the ever-reliable Kek-Tjiang sidefooted in a late goal. It was a just reward for his unparalled concentration even in the last ten minutes, as he spotted Wai-Kin dispossessing an opponent and immediately dashed into the scoring zone.