Kadak's Brave Try
0-3 down at home after just thirty minutes, Grilled seemed headed for ignoble defeat until comeback striker Jaan Kadak
set them back on the right path with a hope-giving brace. Sid looked like he had secured a draw in the last ten minutes, and Grilled came so close to a most improbable reversal. In the end, Team Singapore wrote another unexpected twist as Jue Shiu-Fai brought it to an end.
Fans at Grilled's morning training session questioned van Liere's inclusion, as whatever had been bothering him since last week evidently hadn't cleared up. Alcántara stuck to his guns, however, and persisted with giving the Dutch winger a berth.
Team Singapore arrived at the Cooking Pot with maximum points, courtesy of a very solid backline and a zesty forward threesome. Grilled immediately started having problems with their all-action pressing style, which went extremely hard on ballplayers like Paullin.
Aznan Noor Yadah, former Grilled superstar, received a warm welcome but eschewed sentiment as he repeatedly jinked his way past old friend Kek-Tjiang. The pair, both 31 years of age, were the nexus of the game, and unfortunately for Grilled, Kek-Tjiang was well eclipsed in their early encounters.
With 21 minutes gone, Aznan sent an unerring chip into the penalty area, a feat which he had performed often enough in this very stadium wearing Grilled's colours. With three strikers running all over, the defenders were not able to respond decisively and English striker Darren Gingold nipped in to put it past Sulaiman.
Sulaiman's misery doubled in short order, as Greek frontman Vaios Rodostoglou blew a lightning-fast free-kick into the top corner. Grilled's Egyptian captain would have laid the blame on himself, but the truth was that not all shots were meant to be savable. This clearly qualified as one of them.
That could not be said for the third goal, with Sid manifestly slow to return to his designated position after an abortive push. Per Gustavsson beat his way up the left side unopposed, and Team Singapore's rightback Hua Kok-Peng arrived on schedule to bang Gustavsson's low cross in, with Bona missing the intercept.
That seriously twisted the dagger in, and the stadium was quiet as a cementary for some minutes afterwards. To their credit, few fans were seen departing early, and before half-time Grilled's anthems were even being sung again, albeit with less than usual gusto.
Sulaiman could be counted upon to give his comrades a good old dressing down during the break, with the previously indigant Alcántara reportedly having to step in and play the role of good cop despite his original intentions. The strong words had its intended effects, and the sight of Han Kok and Spirig crowding out an opposition player from the get-go set the tone for the rest of the match.
Team Singapore were defending comfortably however, and it required something out of the ordinary to have their composure wavering - Spirig provided that, as he left everybody standing still with a breathtaking trick pass, sending his right boot behind a planted left leg. Jaan Kadak
caught on quickest, and took the ball all the way inside the six-yard box before slotting it under Chew Xiaolun.
A lone goal meant little by itself, but Kadak soon added another to really open up the game. Hidde van Liere
emerged from anonymity with one dazzling run down the right. Kok-Peng, who had van Liere in his pocket before that, was taken aback and could not catch up. Xiaolun brilliantly parried van Liere's bending strike, but Kadak was waiting in the right place and gleefully rolled the ball where it belonged.
With the pace picking up, Team Singapore had their own chances, and ZhangCai Khoi-Khoa unexpectedly got into space just metres in front of the Grilled goal. Bona slid fearlessly and blocked the shot with his body, and Khoi-Khoa made little attempt to get out of the way before falling over in an obvious attempt at gaining a foul. The referee was not deceived, and he got a card instead.
Grilled then set themselves up for a dream finish with the equaliser, nine minutes from time. Sensing a truly special fightback, Grilled's supporters cranked up the volume as the clock wound down, and Grilled's players responded with new life in their legs. Sid kept his head down and clearly had no intention of passing when he took on several defenders successively. Indeed, he left three men behind before his magical right foot stroked a beauty of a shot into the far side of goal.
The time appeared to have come when a fired-up Han Kok impetously blazed a trail right down the middle, in a bid to get the winning goal. Finally having his path blocked, he kept his cool and picked out Ola Martinsson
, who was making a late run into the box. Alas, the old gameturner sidefooted just two inches too high, sending his effort safely over Xiaolun but off the crossbar. He controlled the rebound, but promptly got hustled off the ball.
To the home crowd's horrow, Grilled had neglected to keep men back in reserve, and Fredgård was left holding the fort alone. Weary legs strove to return, but speedy Team Singapore defender Jue Shiu-Fai had made the most out of Grilled's mistake by sprinting through and finally putting Grilled's hopes to rest.