Seven No Heaven
Outclassed in 3-4 thriller
Grilled Birds learnt about the depth of competition in Division 3 the hard way when they fell to the Kings by a late, late winner two minutes from time by double scorer Shu Jui-Loy.
To the critical observer, Grilled were certainly fortunate to have pushed All The King's Men as far as they did when they were noticeably inferior in all departments. Still, Grilled's travelling fans were seen clutching their heads in agony after a whirlwind end to the game, which saw on-form defender Kau Siu-Cheung
hanging in the air as he directed Reed's outswinging corner between Kyu-sung and the near post only to be caught out of position by Jui-Loy's immediate response.
Even they would agree that a draw would have been an unfair result, though. Bolsted by the discovery of midfield stopper Shen Kek-Tjiang
in the club's youth academy, the Grilled defence nevertheless lasted only a frantic eight minutes against the regal penetration of Jui-Loy, who wrongfooted Kau Siu-Cheung
on a fast break. He then eschewed the free Jonasson who had been abandoned by a back-pedalling Lan Tuan-Mu
to hit a precise volley beyond Hang Bao-Tam
's gloves. Asher Stanton
almost added to the deficit by trying to be too clever with the ball, getting only to the penalty spot before being robbed easily by Jui-Loy. Only courageous throwing of bodies at the ball by the Grilled defenders managed to block his resultant point-blank shot and the follow-up, before Tang Hao fluffed from barely five metres out.
Chances for Grilled were few and far between, but Chen Chiew-Yen
made the most of his first clear chance, reacting fastest when a scuffed pass struck him on his side. Spinning smoothly around his marker, he then passed the ball into the goal past a stunned Michailidis. The partisan home crowd was doubly silenced when the unexpected happened a couple of minutes later. Zhan Ju-Hau
put his physique to good use by bulldozing through King's Hangarter. The whistle did no go, contrary to all his teammates' expectations. and Ju-Hau seized the moment by outmuscling Yuan on his straight run through goal, blasting with more force than skill past Michailidis.
Grilled were buoyed by this stroke of fortune and held the slick interpassing of the King's Men to the break. Rothstad gave Grilled's Siu-Cheung a scare by combining with Bon-Young down the sidelines, but was let down by his finishing. The King's Men changed their tactics from the restart, punting long balls down the middle to bypass a predictably packed Grilled midfield as Grilled Birds massed in their own half to hold their advantage. Jui-Loy and Jonasson were kept out without too much difficulty, mostly thanks to the positioning of Siu-Cheung.
Siu-Cheung was however powerless against advancing sweeper Zong Yuan on a rare foray upfield, as Yuan played the triangle to perfection with Bon-Young before pushing the ball onto the inside of the right post. Bao-Tam did get the barest of touches on the shot, but it was just not enough. Grilled went from winning to losing status in literally a minute, as Jonasson cut to the inside of an overworked Siu-Cheung and put the ball over Bao-Tam in a single fluid stride. Only spirited tackling by the defenders kept Grilled in the game as the opposing wingers continued to run unimpeded to the byeline, and Dai-lin's decision to pull back into a deeper position to provide additional cover on the right probably saved a goal or two.
Even he however was unable to hold the irrepressible Jui-Loy, who could have had a hat-trick with stronger predatory instincts. The best chance of the game that he missed came on the 83rd minute when he shaved the crossbar with Bao-Tam out of position following a miscued throw. A fairytale ending seemed to be on the cards in a heartstopping barrage by Grilled in the final five minutes which ended with a redeeming goal by Kau Siu-Cheung
, only his fifth in three seasons. Jui-Loy had other ideas, and corrected the score at the death of the match at range.