Safri Turns Battle
Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
bagged his sixth career hat-trick to seal Grilled's tenth straight competitive win, as the Birds came from two goals down to overcome the plucky SpartanSG visitors. Although the Spartans had only one league victory coming into the match, the three losses all came against teams currently in the top half of the table, and were thus perhaps not a true reflection of their strength.
As Stanca noted in the match programme, SpartanSG are not known to have any glaring weaknesses, with former U-20 goalkeeper Mok Kim Sze competently keeping things tight at the back, a good mix of youth and experience revolving around fan favourite Shaiful Bahri bin Ahmad Rosdi in the middle and wily strikers up top. He did note that their aging backline might be vulnerable to pace, with 37 year-olds Charis Stravopoulos and Berto Aldeavella asked to hold the fort.
The rain played right into SpartanSG's hands as they slowed the game at will, however, and try as they might, Grilled could not get things going against a disciplined unit careful in covering all angles. Although Stravopoulos did have a few uncertain moments whenever he faced Chow Ying Lee
alone, his partners were always close by to aid him when needed.
A goalless first-half looked probable, when the Spartans went ahead against the run of play. 21 year-old Italian left winger Christian Casablanca stepped through the gears to tear away down the sidelines, but appeared to cross to no-one in particular once he reached the other end. The ball clearly struck the raised arms of Abdul bin Jantan
, to his horror, and referee Siegmund Kirchenbauer ignored protests that they were up to protect his face. Lóránt Somogyi eagerly converted the penalty.
The shell-shocked Grilled team conceded another to Somogyi within the next minute, as Casablanca again went off at full speed down the left. The Grilled defence were not eager to get too close, and a clever dummy by Ukrainian forward Georgiy Kovalev saw the ball go straight through to Somogyi, who placed it in off the far post with authority.
Grilled's winning streak seemed headed towards an end, but the supporters were not given too much time to think of the consequences, as Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
declared himself the saviour with a reducer four minutes later. Seytek Djekshenkulov
seemingly overhit a hopeful cross, but there was no stopping the head specialist, who used every shred of his hard-earned jumping technique to arc the ball over Mok and into the net.
That single action awoke the Grilled team, and the equaliser duly arrived before the break. Tolloch could not find purchase on the muddy ground as he attempted to catch Chow, a daunting task under the best of conditions, and this led to a blind return that Mohd Safri gleefully lashed in for 2-2.
Goals were beginning to fly in all across the league, and this match was no exception with the Spartans again going ahead after the restart. Grilled were again found wanting out wide, and Somogyi encountered precious little resistance before slipping a pass into the six-yard box, where it was met firmly by Belgian midfielder Francisco João Barbosa.
Grilled were used to rolling with the punches by this time, and Tian Yonghang
took just two minutes to reply. There were a lot of passes flowing about from the kick-off, but it was mostly Tian's own superlative dribbling that allowed him to close in on Mok, before just managing to prod it beneath the goalkeeper.
The Cooking Pot was by now pregnant with expectation, and who else but Mohd Safri would arise as hero? Abdul bin Jantan
strode upfield purposefully before sending a cross to the far post, where it was brought down expertly by Grilled's star man. He then avoided two Spartan defenders closing in on him, before turning and firing in at the near post.
That was it for the brave visitors, who finally had nothing more to raise, and Woon Shun An
should have had an assist or two after some brilliant distribution from the middle. Alex Fonseca
came in for bin Jantan in the 80th minute, and put in the legwork to ensure Grilled kept all the points.