Grilled will retire from the Singapore tournament ladder with four wins in a row and their highest ever position of eight, after beating saiNts United FC 4-1 in a Jurong derby. Astonishingly, the clubs have not met since Grilled entered the seventh round of the Singapore Cup at the saiNts' expense no less than 26 seasons ago, with Birds legend Ola Martinsson raiding them for four goals in the club's fiftieth Cup win.
Since then, the sides have avoided each other despite both having participated in several editions of the SG Super Cup, with the saiNts enjoying two moderately long stints in Division Two, but never quite taking the final step up. For now, they appear to be preparing for another run up through the ranks, by pinning their hopes on wing wizardry from the likes of Wong Hui Li, and the homegrown pair of Au Jia Kok and Azrul Amri bin Ismail.
The two would however start centrally with saiNts opting for a conservative 4-5-1 spearheaded by the Neo Kong Nie, with former Yew Tea bruiser Wong Hui Li acting as enforcer. However, this meant that the width had to be provided by trainees Wan Husain Tajuddin and Joe Sai, and as fervent as they were, they still had much to learn with respect to effective use of the ball.
saiNts had set out to strike on the counter with long balls out of defence, leaving a large gap at times between their midfield and defensive lines. Chow Ying Lee
was not going to let this go unchallenged, and he made to test capped national defender Ong Sze Yeow with a quick diversion to the outside. Chow then squeezed in a fine low cross, but Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
for once made his move too early, and Woo Qiang Shi lapped it up.
They then made Grilled sweat by coming up the same wing, Ong giving the Birds a taste of their own medicine by cutting sharply inwards, as Joe forced his way down the line with impressive upper body strength for a young lad. His final touch was no better than Mohd Safri's, however, and Edmund Kryus
was unconcerned as his strike drifted tamely wide.
The to-and-froing continued until Woon Shun An
, fresh off his hat-trick against -= Manchester United =-, carried on with a fiercely-struck volley after Shiya Shaahee
swirled a dipping cross over all the saiNts defenders. Woo was completely stunned, having expected Woon to at least trap the difficult ball, and made no move to attempt a save.
saiNts' backline did live up to their billing for the remainder of the half, but there was nothing they could do in the 51st minute, when Qassem Madaini
sent a free-kick roaring to the side of their defensive wall and in off the post. Neither of the conceded goals could reasonably have been stopped, and they must have felt hard done by when Mohd Safri effectively ended the game with a deflected strike through Woo's legs, after more magic by Shaahee.
Captain Liow Chun Jing had not lain down, though, and he gave saiNts the whisper of a hope, when he personally led a determined assault in the 68th minute. Again, it was youth that did the preparatory work, with Wan Husain Tajuddin turning Ling Fuquan
inside-out, but Liow deserved the credit with his composure to pick out an empty spot in a chaotic six-yard box.
Grilled wasted no time in smothering the nascent saiNts rally, pushing back hard from the restart, and lu Zunwen
came very close with his rocket that went barely over. It was then down to Chow Ying Lee
to complete the job, the speedster establishing his value in the air with a breathtaking spring to head the fourth and final goal in from Zhu Changchun
's diagonal cross.