Pies On The Ground
Partners Pick Up
The Birds overtook CharlesCheesePie to second place with a resounding 4-1 victory in what has traditionally been one of Grilled's more balanced fixture pairs, with neither club having won both the home and away games for the past five seasons. While Grilled had to rely on an unexpected away win last campaign, it was home strength that drove them this time.
Having both won four straight league and four straight home matches in the lead-up, the over 73000 at The Cooking Pot had reason to be confident, excepting the away contingent, who might however have had faith in the Pies' counterattacking gameplan revolving around Wong Chang De - which had been enough for them against Phantasm Hotspurs.
Grilled had other ideas, though, especially with Abdul bin Jantan
finally back from injury after sitting out two rounds. To save his legs, the 29 year-old was started in defence, while Alex Fonseca
's admirable performances were rewarded with a berth in central midfield.
It was all Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
all the way from the get-go as CCP invited the Birds onto them, and the red-hot striker struck up a productive understanding with Paolo Iten
on the right. Just eight minutes had passed when Iten put in an inswinger that Mohd Safri met on the fly, but what would have been an incredible goal ended up the wrong side of the post.
Mohd Safri would head in his second corner in as many weeks, making several distracting runs in the box before popping up at the near post. The Safri-Iten axis nearly created a second within three minutes with the Swiss winger firing in an early cross, but Ioan Diaconescu tipped it over this time.
The Pies were barely coping with the onslaught, though they nearly equalised completely against the run of play, as Quirze Sans was upended contesting a high ball, and Iskandar Zulkernain bin Saidi struck the free-kick onto the outside of the post. Heeding the wake-up call, Grilled attacked with even more urgency, and Iten went it himself to nick the second, having disguised his shot as a cross till the last moment.
then fluffed one from up close with Diaconescu saving with his legs, and the Birds escaped again in the 40th minute when Argentine utility player Mario Gneo rattled the bar from a counter at pace. Grilled could thus have no complaints when CCP were third time lucky in the last minute of the half, with Wong doing the job; lu Zunwen
pulled his thigh in a failed attempt to prevent the shot, so the half-time whistle was a welcome sound for him.
lu recovered over the break, and he had a new partner, with Abdul bin Jantan
getting his day job back from Fonseca, who dropped back into defence. The switch worked with both veterans comfortable in both positions, and bin Jantan was able to expend his saved stamina intelligently when needed.
Grilled's threat would come from a different direction as Yap Loong Dong and company came to grips with Iten, but this left the left open for Chow Ying Lee
. The former U-20 speedster had been patiently biding his time, and after seventy minutes of a supporting role, he exploded onto the main stage with a goal accelerating in from out wide.
It was Chow's turn to be Mohd Safri's best buddy, with the two former national youth internationals combining perfectly to craft a free shot for the latter, but Mohd Safri somehow missed, to Diaconescu's relief. Chow chose to go it alone the next time the chance presented itself, and made it 4-1 with ease.
It was not Tian's day as the 23 year-old was denied by the crossbar, and the final minutes were interrupted by a raft of substitutions. Notable among them was Mayur Gudivada
's appearance, only his second in the league, which was clearly a reward for good development in the reserves.