WE's Parting Nail
Grilled hung on to the top flight by the skin of their teeth, despite failing to take a single point off runners-up Winning Eleven even at home. The hardcore faithful turned out by the droves despite Grilled's recent disappointing results, but even an almost full Cooking Pot made no impression on a tenacious Winning Eleven side.
Though, or perhaps because, Winning had nothing to play for, neither able to ascend or descend, they appeared far more composed than the excitable Grilled players. Insiders had high expectations of a full-strength Grilled XI, united in the cause of securing safety in fourth place.
Kek-Tjiang was flashier than his usual style with his feet clad in custom-made silver-and-red boots on a new footwear contract, and nearly made the perfect advertisement in the ninth minute. He evaded the offside trap as Martinsson cut in and curled a bobbing pass forward, but his powerful rising rocket of a shot found the crossbar.
Grilled were just beginning to get into their groove when Winning Eleven dealt them a cruel blow. The midfield line appeared to fall back neatly once Spirig lost the ball, but German defender Reinold Mönkhof somehow slipped the covering net, and was able to sprint into the box unhindered. Fredgård noticed him too late, as Hultander played to Mönkhof's feet, just right for him to spin out a scoring lob.
That didn't go down well with Han Kok, who seemed more intent on castigating Spirig than backtracking once Jacobsson played the ball on. His temper had not subsided when ex-Grilled champion Au-Yong Siu-Yue nudged him in the back trying to get in front, and Han Kok promptly swept both the ball and his former teammate away with a vigourous leg scythe. If the ball hadn't been in the way, he could well have been sent off.
Grilled's attack has increasingly been branded a one-trick pony, only potent on whichever side van Liere is positioned, but as an offensive weapon the Dutch winger simply has no equal on his day. Tai Chan-San, one of the S-League's top defenders, lost track of him completely for an instant, and that was enough for van Liere to skip past another man in the penalty area before laying off to Han Kok for the last touch.
With the equaliser in the bag, Grilled pushed heavily for the decisive goal. The true action was late in coming, as Grilled got their next threatening effort only late in the second half. Sid fired a weak long-range shot that trickled through to Martinsson, but the Swede's wild strike flew some distance wide of Guardiola's goal.Dani Spirig
shone with a mesmerising individual run where he bluffed his way past four men, starting deep in his own half, but ran out of steam as he approached the penalty area. He made a valiant effort to fake his way past the last man, but Ashworth held his ground and expertly headed Spirig off to the side, where the spearhead spluttered.
Paullin, not known for his shooting, then tried his luck with a first-time blast off a ten-metre run-up. He caught the ball well with his right foot, and would have been hailed a hero had it just been about half a metre lower instead of coming back off the bar, the second time that the woodwork denied Grilled.
It looked headed for a draw, when fullback David Ashworth came out of nowhere to knock in Winning Eleven's second goal. Now Grilled needed two, but even a single goal would not be forthcoming; The Birds ended up with nothing to show their supporters, who still took the loss in good spirit and politely clapped the disheartened team off the field.