Dani, Lee Crocked
An away point against defending champions Chemistry would be counted as an achievement for any S-League team, especially for Grilled who have lost the last four meetings with them, but losing first Dani Spirig
, and then his replacement Lee Jie Siong
to long-term injuries may be too high a price to pay.
Few must have given Grilled much hope after their abject surrender to Rollin' Thunder on Wednesday, especially with Chemistry having retained current Korean national goalie Eui-Tae Yang on wages of nearly a million dollars a week. Simon remained sidelined as a precaution, and although Subri was fit he was left on the bench after his dreadful showing in the Cup, leaving new signing Maikel Rotteveel
to take on the responsibility of being Grilled's lone striker.
Grilled returned to a conservative four-man defence, which was certainly warranted against a Chemistry side wanting to make sure of retaining their title. Indian international Michael Bryant's inspirational form was a constant threat, but Grilled coped adequately. Out of nowhere, Nawaz Talib
rashly hacked down Belgian winger Remo Haafkens, and the previously sober match quickly took an ugly turn.
The Chemistry players never looked satisfied with the yellow card shown to the Pakistani, and several of their men went out of their way to rough Talib up whenever he had the ball. This didn't pass the notice of Talib's teammates, and they responded in kind.
Things got to a head when Tunisian international forward Mohamed El Boubakri appeared to intentionally elbow Talib in the face when going up for a header - Talib himself was displeased, of course, but Lik-Tsun and Sulaiman even more so, and Boubakri swiftly found himself mobbed by the Grilled defence. Players on both sides joined in, and only firm intervention by referee Andreas Dürsch and his linesmen prevented punches from being thrown.
Mohamed El Boubakri was called well aside and given his marching orders, which he didn't take particularly well. Chemistry's remaining ten men struggled to make any inroads on Grilled's defence after losing their best striker, and Haafkens reflected his side's general anger when he caught Spirig with a dangerous tackle that had no hope of succeeding. It appeared to be a clear-cut red, but this time the referee appeared caught in two minds and eventually raised a yellow after seeing Spirig being carried off.
Half-time couldn't come soon enough as the match degenerated into fits of shoving, but if anyone had thought that the break would enable the players to cool off, they couldn't have been more wrong. Sid frightened the home fans with a sweet strike aimed at the top corner that Eul-Tae Yang handled comfortably enough in the end. His long throw went too close to Lee, however, but just when it appeared that the substitute had the ball under his control, in came midfielder Zong Kum-Leong right through him from the back, sending him into the air.
Grilled's bench spontaneously cleared at this horrific tackle, and even the normally placid Luis Alcántara
looked ready to invade the pitch before regaining his senses and ordering his men back. Zong had enough sense to lose himself amongst his buddies instead of remaining at the scene of the crime, and the referee had to seek him for quite a while to show him his yellow card. That hardly went down well with Grilled's players, who felt that Chemistry should have been down to eight men by now, and Alcántara wisely subbed himself on to try and preserve whatever shreds of patience remained.
There appeared to be some sort of rough justice when Maikel Rotteveel
gave Grilled the lead. He had reminded Chemistry of his presence after a quiet first half with some daring runs right down the middle, and when van Liere bent a cross in with the outside of his foot, Rotteveel was first to it and beat Eui-Tae Yang with a stylish downwards header for a debut goal.
Alcántara then marshalled his players into an stubborn defensive force, and it looked as if Grilled would hold out for a famous victory and throw the title race open again. An equaliser came, though in one of the most sour of manners. Shahrulnizam Ladzim struck a hasty shot that looked as if it was going wide, but Lik-Tsun had the misfortune of turning around at that instant, and accidentally punched the ball with his fist. No one could deny that it was handball, and the referee applied the word of the law and granted Chemistry the penalty. Martin eleznik made no mistake to salvage the draw for his team.