Tobago Good Sports
Breaking The Duck
The Birds would finally extricate themselves from their ongoing rut against Trinidad & Tobago II.4 side Sporting do Tobago in the World Battle tourney, with their three-nil win about par for the course - if hardly a given, from how Grilled have struggled these weeks. The affiliates of Portugal's Oeiras Sporting would favour distance shooting as their main weapon, but never got consistently close enough to worry Massoud Dob
It was instead their Belgian player-coach Laurens Moechars who would earn his keep in earnest here, with Sporting's 5-5-0 not being entirely equipped to stop Grilled's players from operating between their lines. They were hardly poor, granted, what with great Azerbaijani hope Tağı Mahmudov - recently capped eleven times for his national U-20 team - showing glimpses of genius alongside Singapore's very own Kwek Rong Wei, a S$2 million acquisition from Sgurgola Utd. They were up against a Birds attacking machine in their prime, though - and it showed.
Moechars' shift began to heat up from about the twentieth minute, after Grilled sussed their opponents out, and he made his first save of note in the 22nd, off Kalki Parvathaneni
's energetic sprint from the left, which should in honesty have been so much more. It was the same for Salah Kamel
nine minutes later, when the Palestine midfielder spurned a completely good opening to take a shot, to try and round the goalkeeper, only to be seen through.
It remained a matter of time from how Grilled were going on, anyhow, with Sporting barely managing to return the ball over the halfway line, but making it to the interval still level would have raised their hopes of holding on. Moey Xin Seng
wasn't about to allow that, and following several fierce intrusions - mostly warded off by Mahmudov - the ball fell kindly for Moey from a half-successful tackle, and he would think quickly to rake it beyond Moechars.
That single goal made all the difference to morale, so it seemed, and the Birds were only more dominant upon the restart. Neeraj Muthyala
replaced a slightly-worn Wu Jinglong
for this period, and Moey again led by example, as he nearly doubled Grilled's lead just four minutes into the new half. Collecting the ball with his back to goal from Chan Ze Han
, Moey would feel out his left side with a couple of cautious prods, before bursting into full stride to open the angle and throw his marker off. The ensuing shot would have been perfect, had it been inches lower.
Sporting might have survived that, but hardly through their own efforts, and Grilled were soon upon their backline again. Muthyala and Kalki made an excellent combination down the right side, and it was all Comoros fullback Yussef Bitok could do, to keep the latter relatively hemmed in against the touchline. But not nearly enough, as Kalki swung it to the centre of the box, and though Bernie Egan
's header wasn't his best, it was nonetheless enough to take it past Moechars.
would come in shortly afterwards for Mateja Jeftić
, and certainly looked a fair bit more sprightly in advancing. Sporting were still struggling to get within range for a crack, and though Modesto Méndez Mora came close once or twice, he ultimately didn't pull the trigger. Instead, it was Grilled who continued testing Moechars, who was incredible in denying Chan Ze Han
in the 73rd. He couldn't stop Chu Xin Lee
's blast with five minutes to go, however.