From Birds To Buns
Even as Grilled Birds bowed out of the S-League, brother club Farmer Bunnies would rise in their place, as they outlasted former Singapore Cup winners United Legends FC to reach the top division for the first time. The Legends had, of course, beaten the Birds by two goals in both their league clashes, which was proof enough of their formidability. Michele Antonelli moreover had no squad worries other than the long-term injured Jimmie McNutt, and fielded the same XI that had just spanked Grilled 4-2.
Bunnies, if nothing else, were a completely different type of team from the Birds, as evidenced by their tasking of Brendan Leung
to close Alderney Tavares Jr. down - a job that he fulfilled with relish. Actual shots were hard to come by, with the first true attempt made by Mushtag Al-Nameeri
after 35 minutes. As against Grilled, the Legends would open through Valentin Chakúrov, but Namdar Zarar
bit back before half time as Iron Armijo failed to hold onto Vishnu Tallapaka
's awkwardly-bouncing effort.
Zarar would be replaced by Jon Benson
with twenty minutes of regular time to go, as the Buns pressed for a decisive goal, and there would almost be one in a busy last five minutes; Sidor Shirshin rammed a free-kick straight back off the post, and the Buns didn't tarry, and nearly countered successfully through Morgan Hu
. Extra time saw United Legends go ahead through Vlad Makarin's intelligent doubling-up on the left, but Sofian Azfar
saved the Buns' quest with eleven minutes left.
It then went to penalties - which Dalibor Kostadinović
had hinted was his plan all along - and both teams converted the first four without undue drama. There would be a gasp from the home crowd when Vivian Grubenmann
got just enough of a touch on Franklin Battle's textbook sidefoot the his right, and it was all down to a fresh and waiting Nurlan Ablaev
, who had come on for Al-Nameeri for just this moment. The Russian forward lobbed it down the middle with almost casual disdain, making Bunnies history.
Among all the general clamour, Grilled icon Tian Yonghang
paid the Buns perhaps the greatest compliment of all. "If our relegation had any silver lining, it would be that it allows Farmer Bunnies to have a taste of the S-League. The Buns have been a mainstay of the national defensive unit for years, many of them are reaching their peak, and it would be a downright shame if they were unable to demonstrate their worth at the highest level."
As for the Birds, they would be assigned to replace Random Curiosity FC in II.4, only their second season in this league after a single, less-than-impressive campaign following their first major rebuild. While there will be some familiar names, such as Joker 9, ~Pollen~ and Batok Earthquakes, Hovaness Noubaryan
identified runners-up Singapore Big Dogs and third-placed Ramseille Volliard FC as their main rivals. "We will be looking to hit the ground running."