Sulaiman And Shen Save
Grilled salvaged a very useful point in the 80th minute from bottom dwellers heimu XI, after they had gotten a 2-0 lead. The result means that Grilled stay within touching distance of Winning Eleven, with an equal twenty points but a massive nine goals behind on goal difference.
On paper, the fixture was little more than an exercise for Grilled's Wednesday assault on the Cup - two of heimu's three top players, the Swedish midfielders Stefan Rikardsson and Ulf Ragnlind, were confirmed out with injuries, while their best defender Bahtiar Rahmat was suspended. Grilled in contrast had a full side, bar Cao, to choose from.
The problem was that the Grilled players believed that as well, which coupled with some dressing room disharmony wrecked their early game. Hjortlind reportedly threw a fit after Alcántara decided that he would field himself in a 4-5-1 rather than let the striker in. Tellingly, Hobson was seen on the bench, lending credence to the view that Hjortlind had indeed stormed out of the stadium.
heimu's Zong Kum-Leong expertly rallied his team in response, and Grilled foolishly backed off their lively attackers. They were made to pay when Sid didn't bother to clear a bad pass from Falkbo, and the tall 35-year old Amir Batcha bin Mamud got above all defenders to sweetly head in his first league goal of the season.
Angry words were exchanged, and Grilled appeared to be fighting themselves as much as the opponents. There was a clear refusal to play the simple ball, and only Sulaiman stood between Grilled and a real hiding, as he batted away multiple strikes from both Thord Hyquist and Lee Beng Liang, any of which would have made a worthy goal.
There was some consternation as heimu's Tong Chee Khin went down under heavy pressure from Bona on the edge of the box, but the linesman spotted that one and flagged for diving. Tong got a yellow card, which was to prove important later on.
The situation improved after the break as Alcántara sorted his team out during the half-time break, and the sight of the Birds doing a group huddle in the centre circle came as a relief to their travelling fans, who had feared the worst.
Hyquist seemed to have found his bane in Sulaiman, as even getting clear of the last man didn't help against the tenacious Egyptian goalie. He tried to power it in through sheer force, but Sulaiman somehow got a hand down and deflected the ball out to the flank. Sulaiman then chased after it and cleared, only for a late-arriving Tong to get two feet into his ankle.
Tong was clearly remorseful for his rash slide, but it had little bearing on what could have qualified for a straight red. As it was, the referee did cut him some slack by flashing the yellow card first, sparing Tong the inconvenience of a mandatory disciplinary hearing.
Down to ten men, heimu XI still found it in them to widen the lead. Hyquist finally got lucky in the 64th minute, as the hobbling Sulaiman could not close him down in time. Hyquist pulled to the left before scooping a classic lob that sailed in at the far post. It looked all over for Grilled, as heimu were well on the way to a huge upset.
With less than half an hour left, Grilled proved that they could never be written off as long as they play to their potential. Siu-Yue made a somewhat embarrasing attempt at winning a penalty with a half-hearted collapse on a light impact, for which he was rightly carded. Spirig saved his blushes as he sneaked in behind heimu's thin defence and tapped in, after Rottman had chested down the poorly taken free kick.
heimu XI had one great opportunity to put the scoreline beyond doubt as their midfielder Shamsul Akmar bin Ismail sought out the roof of the net with a stunning half-volley, but Sulaiman again bailed Grilled out with an equally stupendous flying save that had him clutching his hamstring afterwards.Shen Kek-Tjiang
made them pay for that miss, as he combined well with Borup going down the left, eventually slotting the equaliser in calmly. It might even have turned out to be a turnaround victory as Grilled won the upper hand, but time was not on their side, and both teams had to make do with a single point, which might not do either of their causes much good.