Grilled Birds 4 - 3 JUtd
Blockbuster Set Up
Showdown In A Week
As expected, both Grilled and heimu XI won their penultimate games, and leave it all to play for next weekend. It was a close-run affair at The Cooking Pot, however, as Grilled had to withstand a late rally from the feisty visitors in this Jurong derby. Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
was as good as his word, scoring twice in as many minutes to put the Birds within one point of a first Division Two title in 25 seasons.
With Shiya Shaahee
suspended, the midfield more or less picked itself, while Chow Ying Lee
returned to the forefront over doubts about his form. Despite Lin Jungui's departure, there remained plenty of competition for the second defensive spot, and Niculae Stanca
's pick turned out to be Ling Fuquan
, with newcomer Rashid bin Ahmad
warming the bench.
Some fans have had their doubts about Saudi skipper Qassem Madaini
, and he picked a good time to justify his selection priority with his first goal of the season. Receiving it in the heart of the JUtd defence in the third minute and granted some space, Madaini fancied a go, and sniped it past Swiss goalie Lukas Gröne to send the stadium into delight.
As they had in the reverse fixture, JUtd hit back within six minutes, and Norwegian attacker Rasmus Grønkjær collected his third of the season against the Birds. Unlike his previous two, this had a large element of fortune, as his free-kick went right between lu Zunwen
and Woon Shun An
in the defensive wall, additionally deflecting heavily off the latter's torso. Dexter Stacey
had no chance at all as the ball looped into the other side of his goal.
Despite that, Grilled clearly kept the upper hand, and Mohd Safri didn't take long to notch a double to take his league tally to 14. His first was a lovely chip that burrowed right into the top corner, and drew deserved adulation from the crowd, immediately followed by a typical center forward's header from a Madaini corner. Nothing to write home about in comparism, but worth exactly as much.
It was all Mohd Safri all the way, and he should have won it for Grilled when his mesmerising twisting made Brazilian defender João Joaquim Azambuja fall on him inside the box in the 27th minute. Madaini stepped up to do the honours, but to the disbelief of the crowd, slotted it narrowly wide after Gröne had committed to one side.
Nevertheless, the Birds had a healthy two-goal cushion that they never looked like relinquishing for the following forty minutes, and it was JUtd who were happier about maintaining the status quo. Coach Karl Astre finally resolved to make his move in the 70th minute after a heavy fall by Woon Shun An
, and went all-in by throwing striker Lin Kian Jing on for midfielder Rosemiro Barcellos, shifting to a 3-4-3.
It paid immediate dividends, though Lin was nowhere near the action when Grønkjær skinned Abdul bin Jantan
down the left, and swung an inswinger right onto Yao Erfu's head. Ling Fuquan
never got close enough to the 25 year-old hometown boy as he pulled wide to meet the ball coming in, and the header went low and outside Stacey's reach.
The atmosphere immediately got nervier as what had been a waiting game turned into having a fight on one's hands, as JUtd began going through the gears with their substitute pulling Grilled's tiring defence apart. It was just as well that Zhu Changchun
celebrated his return from suspension by scoring, a simple but important grounder that Gröne nearly kept out.
Their recent effort come to naught, JUtd had no option but to give it their all as they spurned defence, leaving Azambuja to take a yellow card for the team after Tian Yonghang
threatened to break towards goal near the center circle. Their determination did pay off, as Gerardo Sensesi again pulled them within one goal with a fine lob, after Lin and Yao had scrambled Grilled's organization on the right.
Grilled held on after Chow's attempt was bravely blocked, and Stanca was happy to while the final minutes away with Alex Fonseca
coming on for Abdul bin Jantan
. The visitors were not happy at Abdul taking his time to wander to the sidelines from the corner flag, but the crowd, at 83504 the largest nationally for the weekend, could care less as they anticipated the possible dawning of a new era for the club.