3 - 4 Grilled Birds
United We Score
Lin Lets Loose
Grilled's uncharacteristic quick start carried on as the team dug out a come-from-behind 4-3 to break JUtd hearts, after the hosts had done what they could to near-perfection in this first derby between the sides.
JUtd's preparations for their ascension to Division Two involved plenty of trading, as their longtime goalie Tugay Kutlu and other regulars like Diego Quintans and Bon-Ho Shim made way for new blood in Lukas Gröne, Rasmus Grønkjær, Antonio Guridi and Masters-experienced Brazilian defender João Joaquim Azambuja. Chilean wide attacker Juan Esparza was the latest to get the chop after a fair performance against Hotspurs, but this paved the way for French defender Mathieu Villedieu to arrive - and start.
Grilled were in contrast far more settled, and the only changes from the side that edged heimu XI last week were Chow Ying Lee
being restored to the attack, and Abdul bin Jantan
risked at right midfield. New Bukit Batok was nearly packed as both sets of supporters poured in, but it was the Birds' familiarity at this level that was most evident in the early stages.
did enough to earn what should have been a goal for himself after an audacious piece of skill that saw him chip a defender on the turn, before rushing by and skipping across Gröne to leave the goal gaping, but he then fluffed the straightforward finish by scooping it wide and over, to his own animated dismay.
It was down to Seytek Djekshenkulov
to stick it in for Grilled yet again. The Kyrgyzstani's newfound aggressiveness might have made him a card magnet, but it has also gotten him more 50-50 balls than might have been expected, such as when he bumped Ján Lipčák aside in a race to Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
's forward pass in the 13th minute. Djekshenkulov then steadied himself and arrowed it into the roof of the net.
JUtd were jolted back into reality by this development, and their play improved massively once they discarded their cautious mentality, especially with Grilled leaving their own flanks open. The right was particularly exposed with Djekshenkulov preferring to contribute offensively, and the skilful Gerardo Senesi levelled by lifting an exquisite chip over Dexter Stacey
while being herded wide.
Norwegian Rasmus Grønkjær however was the home side's most effective attacker on the whole, as while he did not possess Senesi's control, his extra yard of pace over just about every Grilled player he encountered became a nightmare for the Birds. Qassem Madaini
could do little but funnel him slightly wide whenever possible, but that was not enough in the 23rd minute when he picked his moment and latched onto a through pass to put JUtd in front.
The tables had turned as JUtd were now the ones who looked far more likely to widen their lead, as they had real penetration down the sides despite not holding as much possession, and it was all the Birds could to to keep from falling behind. To make things even trickier, JUtd's forwards began to drop deep, daring Grilled's defenders to follow them to uncharted territory.
had to wait till half-time to re-instill belief in his flagging team, and the Romanian's motivational powers evidently did Grilled a world of good as they again took charge. Lin Jungui
profited in the 53rd minute, as he was slow returning from a corner, and happened to be in the right place to bang in an equaliser after the ball was stolen back by lu Zunwen
JUtd remained optimistic about their chances, and their Swiss coach Karl Astre felt that the time had come to make a move in the 67th minute, ordering Rosemiro Barcellos to act as extra defensive cover on one hand while bringing on terrace favourite Ye Anmin on for a slowing Senesi on the other. This paid off almost immediately, with Ye's running opening holes in Grilled's backline, one of which Grønkjær ran into to make it 3-2.
The green-clad Grilled fans in the away stands looked glum as JUtd showed every sign of riding that goal to victory, but fate threw a spanner in the works as JUtd captain Ján Lipčák suffered a nasty gash on his head after contesting a header against Mohd Safri. The far less experienced Li Cheng Wai had to be hastily called upon to fit into an alien position, and it turned out to be total disaster.
The Birds composed themselves, and tied things up immediately after the referee restarted the match. JUtd sportingly returned the ball since Mohd Safri had put it out upon recognizing the severity of the injury, and Stacey wasted no time in booting it upfield accurately to a waiting Abdul bin Jantan
. A few sharp passes later, the ball was at Jungui's feet in the box yet again, and the defender completed the first brace of his Grilled career, sparking a wild pile-on.
That was not the end of it either. Grilled's forwards had been strangely silent thus far, with all six league goals so far coming from the midfield and defence, but no longer as Tian Yonghang
made up for his earlier eighth-minute miss, quite appropriately eight minutes from time. It was a practised combination down the middle this time, and Tian made no mistake with a solid strike to the far bottom corner.
Grilled then suffered an injury setback of their own, with Dexter Stacey
caught nastily on his shin as Anmin desperately tried to salvage a point for his team, which meant that Georgian backup Hovaness Noubaryan
would make his first league appearance. In light of this, Stanca decided to eat up some time with his remaining substitutions, pulling off goalscorers Jungui and Yonghang to an ovation from the Birds' fans, securing another three points.