Day Of Firsts
Worries about Ulf Hjortlind
, or "Bakunin's gamble" as he has become popularly if uncharitably known, were dispelled as the unprepossessing youngster saved the Birds from defeat. Fair winds favoured the reopening ceremony of Gamma Stadium, postponed as a result of the walkover against rothgar the week before. Filled close to capacity, most of the fifty-nine thousand crowd watched with bated breath as Hjortlind was dispossessed off the opening whistle by Geylang Eagles United marksman Tsai Jie-Quan. There was no warding off the Eagles' advances as they pressed forward as if they were the home team, and the first goal the expanded stadium was to see was Jie-Quan's century goal. Romanian midfielder Aristide Ditã had a lot to do with that as he pulled Alcántara far to the left, leaving a hole for Jie-Quan to enter.
Grilled Birds gradually regained their composture, and though they were far from smooth, Aznan Noor Yadah
did get the ball to Hjortlind, who swopped positions with Stern constantly, a couple of times. Hjortlind did not pass up on the second chance and showed maturity by staying calm to convert. That was met by roaring approval by the swell of fans, and Hjortlind was duly mobbed. The cheers were short-lived as Dewilde, who otherwise had an excellent outing, stumbled and missed a direct pass. Luo Ser-Kiat, who almost couldn't believe his luck, put it beyond Bao-Tam with conviction. The action on the right flank was especially fierce, and Noor Yadah got into some tangles with Geylang's Iulian Udrescu from which he emerged with a sprain. Geylang pressed the initiative, and almost delivered twice before Jie-Quan went all over Dewilde in his anxiety to widen the lead. He cooled off slightly after his caution, and Grilled Birds began to keep the ball for longer periods. Near the interval whistle, Grilled won a corner which was well-delivered by Stern. Pinball seemed to be played within the Eagles' penalty box when the ball fell dead center into the box, but finally Tuan-Mu scrambled it in through sheer force, bundling both himself and the ball over the line.
That goal refreshed Grilled no end as they emerged in high spirits for the restart and kept possession away from the Eagles' superior attack. Buoyed by the equaliser, Grilled seized the game through the twinkling toes of Stern, who had been bothering expatriate Chinese Lim Fui-Gna, coincidentally also from Canada, for some time. All Lim's $4.16 million transfer value was as nought as he was a foot slow, and could only watch Stern give the ball to Hjortlind who pounced. Dai-Lin was the next to show some pace as he came up from the left and delivered to right wingback Luis Alcántara
at the far post. Alcántara shot instantly when he should have held the ball up, but for once beat the tight angle and Adkins too for good measure. This made it 4-2, and Grilled had turned the game around.
Hearts were sent fluttering when sweeper Lan Tuan-Mu
exited the game after a painful fall, and they were not appeased when out-of-form defender Kau Siu-Cheung
took his spot. Geylang directed their attacks towards him, and Dewilde had to reinforce the middle, leaving the right flank empty. Dai-Lin couldn't return in time either when Geylang stalwart Hu Yueh-shiou, who has six goals to his name despite joining the senior team only late last month, blazed his way through and hit a ball to the other side. Nothing Bao-Tam could do as he was faced with both Jie-Quan and Udrescu, and in the end Udrescu chose to chip him to reduce the deficit. Geylang's impetus was broken soon after, to Grilled's relief, when top striker Jie-Quan crunched into Siu-Cheung quite audibly. That was a certain yellow card, and as it was his second Jie-Quan had no further part to play in the match. Grilled's defenders then paid Ser-Kiat special attention, and had him marked tightly thereafter. One more player was to go off as Geylang's Australian goalie Ngake Adkins landed hard on his feet. Swede Niklas Myrbeck was a more than adequate replacement as he fended off attacks smartly. Bao-Tam was called upon to make a few blocks, but was not seriously threatened as the back three did their jobs. Finally, another first was recorded by Hjortlind as he stripped off his jersey almost before the referee signalled the end of the game, nearly receiving a warning for that.