It Stops At Fourteen
Grey-shirted Titus Titanium IV broke Grilled's unbeaten streak in all competitions at fourteen games, with Tang Chien-Hui scoring the fateful winner in the 30th minute. Grilled could leave the pitch with their heads held high, though, as they had done enough to win, had lady luck favoured them.
Titus had finally bowed to financial realities and transfer listed national playmaker Jiu Thuy, whose agents had demanded no less than S$700 000 a week. Division Two side jafjfqaoi stumped up the $12.75 million fee for Jiu, and two days later Bing Kong-Phay followed him out. They later recruited well-travelled winger ZhangCai Shu-chen back to his homeland.
They still retained Jiu Thuy's national team partner Tang Chien-Hui however, on an even more impressive wage of some S$850 000 a week. It may not be too much for a one-man midfield machine, and clearly one of the premier attacking midfielders in the region.
Grilled tried for a whirlwind breakthrough as they ran tight passes through the middle, and actually got Au-Yong Siu-Yue
past the last man with the ball. He had trouble striking off the dribble, and would surely regret seeing his rather ordinary attempt well stopped by Yukpui.
Kek-Tjiang's control in the penalty area turned out to be better, as he used a great first touch to keep the ball from Titus' defenders in the 20th minute. A tricky turn one would more often associate with van Liere completed the deception, and he had time to get his head up and decide where to place his shot, and as it turned out it went in under Yukpui.
There were loud protests from Titus' fans as Tang Mei-Kuen twisted his way past Sid only to have the Polish defender get a hand onto his shoulder and sweep both Tang and the ball off the ground. The distracted referee looked to his linesman, who studiously looked into empty space and kept his flag down.
Mei-Kwen ended up getting booked for rolling one time too many on the floor, and his remonstrations almost caused his side to go a second goal down as Sid pumped the free kick straight down the line. Paullin headed it on to Han Kok in the middle, but the up and coming midfielder swung too hard and found the crossbar. It was easier to score than miss, and he knew it.
He would rue the glaring miss as Titus flattened Grilled with a one-two combination. Miao Ee-Van delivered the first part of the double whammy as he sighted and shot after Mei-Kuen had laid the ball back to him, and the strike from fifteen metres was something special. Many spectators would have agreed with Sulaiman that it was flying over, but it dropped heavily and went in off the bottom of the woodwork.
Tang Chien-Hui then showed why he had been capped nearly fifty times for the national side, with a bit of genius that built on the energetic dash of ZhangCai Shu-chen down the left. Tang cleverly halted his run when all others were running headlong into the box, and sure enough the ball was headed out to him. He quickly sent the ball past Sulaiman with the help of a deflection off Siu-Yue, whose day just got even worse.
Grilled fought back vigorously in the second half looking to at least salvage a draw, but found Yukpui in an inspired mood. Rottman himself got his shot redirected by a defender's block in the 58th minute, but the block also took the sting off the strike and Yukpui managed to change direction quickly enough to save.
Martinsson then unleashed one of his trademark lightning strikes from an unreasonable distance, and though it was on target Yukpui didn't even have to deal with it. Yue Wee-Cheong had courageously put his head in the way, and sent the ball high into the upper tiers behind the goal.
Grilled had serious trouble making any more attempts, as Titus retired to defend their slender advantage. ZhangCai Shu-chen had no alternative but to bring Paullin down to break up Grilled's most promising attacking move, but his yellow card was a small price to play for the ultimate victory.