Glory And Pain
Chow's Eventful Hundredth
Grilled stretched their lead at the top of the table to eight points after downing CharlesCheesePie for the second time in as many weeks, which was due again to their devil-may-care attitude in attack. Other than Liang Liyong
in for Ling Fuquan
and making his league debut, there were no changes for the Birds from the side that won 4-2, while the Pies were a whole new matter altogether, back in their preferred 2-5-3 with Zulharisan bin Mamud, Wong Chang De and Mohd Ali bin Abu Bakar all in the mix.
That was a midfield to make any team wary, but Grilled handled it by not thinking too much of it. Tian Yonghang
opened some daylight between the teams in the fifth minute with a nearly unconscious chip when the ball came to him, his third against Javier Mesa this season.
The near-capacity crowd of over 84000 were beginning to get extremely worked up, but the Pies signalled their own ambitions with careful forays into the Grilled box. Dexter Stacey
was soon called into action, parrying Silviu Iancu's grounder after Lai Yau Meng drove right into the defence, but the Canadian could do nothing when Lai headed against the bar in the 20th minute. Quah Boon Min cleaned that up with a no-nonsense volley.
It was all very even, and there was a sense that the match would go to whichever party took their chances better. Thankfully for the Birds, their star strikers were in tip-top form, and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
never looked like missing when he tipped a pass around Yap Loong Dong with his first touch in the 25th.
then began to get into the game, as his teammates began to get the ball wide to him while he hugged the right touchline. The Pies' defenders were loathe to get out so far to shut him down, and opposite number Denis Stevens proved a less able tackler than attacker. The Maldives winger had his eye out for Chow Ying Lee
, and Chow repaid that trust by slamming a third in from the cross.
The visitors had to make a statement before too long, but they were unfortunate to face a determined Stacey in the Grilled goal. While Quah's disappointing grounder was a run-of-the-mill stop for Stacey late in the first half, the 35 year-old goalie did brilliantly to narrow the angle and force Wong Chang De to shoot narrowly wide from the restart.
The pick of Stacey's saves was however an incredible tip on Denis Stevens' breathtaking lob from the left in the 61st minute, which would surely have made the national highlight reels had it gone it. As it was, it could still feature prominently, as Stacey's arching back to get his fingers on it was a sight to behold by itself.
The Pies were banging down Grilled's door, with Lai running himself into the ground, and head coach Daday would get veterans Yap Loong Dong and Dariusz Musiatowicz on in an effort to force a fightback. However, it would be Chow who answered the call, as he powered Abdul bin Jantan
's layoff past Mesa to shatter their hopes.
Chow would not see out the match as he deserved, however, though it was not due to the card he had just received - he might have gone on to get a hat-trick after receiving the ball at the top of the penalty area, but was mercilessly clattered into by Yap in mid-turn. Astoundingly, the referee waved play on, and only stopped the game after Chow failed to stir. In the meantime, lu Zunwen
overstretched himself trying to stop the ball, making it a horrid state of affairs for the Birds.
The match restarted after Chow was carried off with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, to a standing ovation from the stands, with Leong Wan Kang
again a late injury sub. Seytek Djekshenkulov
replaced lu at the same time as the game slowed trememdously after the injuries, but it soon picked up again with Lai testing Stacey's resolve with a snipe from ten metres, again batted aside.
CharlesCheesePie had one last go at minimally replicating last week's result when Zulharisan bin Mamud looked to have been bumped down by Woon Shun An
with a minute to go, but the referee again made a strange call by booking Zulharisan instead, leaving it to end 4-1 to the Birds.