Grilled bounced back from their defeat to Rapala FC by returning with a 4-1 from their first trip to The Kherubim, with all four goals coming from a dynamic midfield. Hungarian winger Lóránt Somogyi, who shocked the Birds with two in two minutes in the reverse fixture, was again on target, but there was no taking victory from Grilled after they bagged three by the seventeenth minute.
SpartanSG's last four league fixtures had seen two wins against Siegmund United and a draw and a loss against JUtd, a respectable build-up, but they were to be without German striker Swen Gemeinhardt, who has yet to recover from injury. Joachim November, who had proved deadly in the Cup with ten to his name, filled in alongside main man Georgiy Kovalev.
The Birds were similarly not at full strength, with Chow Ying Lee
still recuperating from his neck injury. Few would have noticed given the way that they threw themselves forwards, however, as Grilled stole the march for once with unexpected carrying of the ball forward from a midfield more known for cautious passing.
This sowed uncertainty into even a midfield as weathered as that of the Spartans, and while Sergio Vázquez made mostly the right decisions, it was not enough to keep Abdul bin Jantan
from shielding Seytek Djekshenkulov
through in the sixth minute, not that the big Kyrygyzstani needed the support. Former national U-20 custodian Mok Kim Sze nearly scrabbled Djekshenkulov's low effort aside, but not quite.
Mok's goal would be breached again in the next minute, and this time it had to be placed squarely on indifferent defending. The first line stood off when lu Zunwen
decided to steam forward from the centre circle, and no-one actually dreamed that he might be able to go all the way till he was already at the edge of the penalty area. As many have found before, lu takes a lot of stopping when he's in full stride, and Berto Aldeavella's late intervention wasn't sufficient.
This only spurred the spectators at The Kherubim to a higher volume, and their admonishments were heard as SpartanSG pulled themselves back. Zhu Changchun
collected a yellow for a mistimed tackle, and then Ling Fuquan
flirted with one when he got two fistfuls of November's jersey in an effort to constrain him in the box. A penalty was given against Ling for his pains, and captain Somogyi planted it right into the right-hand corner.
The revival was short-lived, though, and bin Jantan once again found himself in the thick of things for Grilled's third. With exuberant Italian winger Christian Casablanca venturing too far up front, bin Jantan managed for once to juke past Henning Tolloch on his outside, and immediately clipped it back inside to nobody in particular. Woon Shun An
read the play, though, and swept it over and in.
SpartanSG apparently finally figured Grilled's game out after this third goal, and became far more active at tracking runs, which they turned out to be rather good at. They probably even had the better of the rest of the half, but Grilled had the luxury of playing safe at any sign of danger, and the only time they were truly concerned was when Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
reared up in mid-dribble. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm.
The second half cleared the slate, and Djekshenkulov took advantage to claim only his second brace for Grilled since werwinner in the Cup three seasons ago. Known for scoring in spurts, he again wandered infield to Grilled's profit, reflexively hammering the ball on its way after Zhu Changchun
's through pass to Mohd Safri was deflected ever so slightly.
Grilled could have had more on their plate, but Tian Yonghang
's poor fortune up top continued. A show-stopping diving header well worthy of a goal was as skilfully saved by Mok in the 77th minute, and then a mechanically near-perfect strike from fifteen metres flashed inches over the crossbar, after he had bought himself a foot of space with a neat feint. The fans could sense that it simply wasn't his day.
The home team were not going under without a fight, and Casablanca nearly contributed one by himself as he surged down the left and into the danger zone with extraordinary speed considering the stage of the game. He should probably have passed to Kovalev, however, and once that window was closed it was inevitable that he would be hustled away without inflicting any damage.
Grilled skipper Qassem Madaini
would be able to reflect on a job well done after he was removed in the 89th minute together with Abdul bin Jantan
, with Lin Jungui
and Alex Fonseca
upping their appearance totals this day.