Drama At Death
The Birds' improbable winning run for the league entered the seventh game, as they rocked an incredible last ten minutes at See Mee Lan Park to repeat last week's feat of coming from two behind to walk away with the spoils. The Pies were distracted by ongoing Cup obligations, but were minutes away from keeping it sufficiently tight against Grilled.
Wednesday's visit to Twenty2 FC meant that the home team were wary of placing too much on their players, but this didn't stop them from tasking the three former U-20 champions Wong Chang De, Mohd Ali bin Abu Bakar and Soon Yew Yeng in foraging mode, while banking on a very balanced five-man backline to take care of things. However, new signing Pascual José Amado was, to the fans' disappointment, completely absent.
Grilled for their part had Chow Ying Lee
back, but this honestly mattered very little as they were unable to gain any purchase against the well-supported Pies. The Birds looked disjointed at the start, and a questionable attempt at going it alone by Shiya Shaahee
resulted in the ball being lost to Quah Boon Min and Luigi Leanza, the latter who quickly parlayed the breakaway into a classy finish.
With the Birds not able to raise themselves, the Pies pressed their advantage with a second. It was a far longer build-up this time, with their front trio keeping the ball to themselves for maybe a dozen passes, before Soon hit a sudden pass to Dariusz Musiatowicz, who lapped it up. Dexter Stacey
was moving already when Qassem Madaini
got a foot in and sent it behind the goalie, to their mutual dismay.
Grilled needed a response quickly if they were not to sink without a trace, and Tian Yonghang
kept it close with a simple dash-and-thump-it job diagonally into the area. Worryingly, that was Grilled's only clear chance of the half, and Shaahee blemished an already forgettable shift by going in recklessly on Soon, who thankfully was up and about after some medical attention.
The Birds were roused by Niculae Stanca
's half-time speech, and Tian was on target with a drive that took an impressive split by Ibrahim Rambli to remove. The hosts were constantly waiting for the right opportunity themselves, and Mohd Ali bin Abu Bakar had one come off the post after a rapid riptose.
CharlesCheesePie were getting confident now, and Yap Loong Dong, who had been the heart of their defence, was taken off for Iskandar Zulkernain bin Saidi. Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
then struck the upright with an expert header, but this did not affect the Pies' master plan of resting players, Quah being switched out for Australian veteran Denis Stevens.
These changes did break the Pies' flow, though, and they began to hesitate with Grilled really coming at them now. The equaliser finally arrived in the 82nd minute, as Tian preyed upon Luigi Leanza's aggravated ankle injury to dribble by and blast his second of the day past Javier Mesa.
Ironically, Tian himself was carried off after that contribution, as his shin went into a defender's boot on the follow-through, and Leong Wan Kang
could barely wait to come on and be a game-change; it nearly changed the other way, with Soon unexpectedly being let through by both Grilled defenders, but he was almost as taken aback, and hurried his shot carelessly.
A draw loomed and would probably have been fair, but Chow was having none of it. His idea was not original by any means - just kick the ball beyond the last man and sprint after it - but even through Iskander knew what was coming, he simply couldn't catch a Chow intent on proving himself, with even a last-ditch professional foul failing. Chow had more trouble with Mesa, but managed to draw him enough to find space at the far post.
Pies coach János Daday was suddenly frantic to use his final substitution even as his fellow Romanian on the other bench whooped with joy, but he had not yet managed to relay his instructions to the fourth official when Grilled restarted the match and promptly extended their lead, Shiya Shaahee
being wonderfully composed to record his first league goal.
Now resigned, Daday pulled Mesa to save the critical player from a freak last-minute accident, while Grilled were happy to play around with their substitutions to eat away the seconds. Chow did nearly make it five with a direct cannonball, but replacement Pies goalie Ioan Diaconescu saved well, if without much consequence.