Grilled Birds 4 - 4 JUtd
Grilled were held to a 4-4 draw at home by the formidable JUtd visitors, as Mexican wingback Maximiliano Domínguez extended a quite improbable record by scoring in the fifth straight league match. His opposite Number Three Woon Shun An
had an impressive showing in the rain too, finishing sweetly in the first half before going out to stem the rot in the second.
JUtd were without other concerns after being upset by H20 in the Cup, while Grilled kept faith with Hovaness Noubaryan
, and sprung a small surprise by giving Shiya Shaahee
the go-ahead on the left wing. It was a much-anticipated clash, with JUtd victorious in seven of their eight competitive games before their Cup elimination, drawing one, while Grilled are unbeaten so far with eight wins and a draw.
It was then something of a pity that incessant rain kept the crowd away from The Cooking Pot for this Jurong battle, but judging from the first twenty minutes, those who stayed away could have known something. The game developed at a snail's pace, with JUtd eager not to concede, and Grilled not in any hurry to force the issue either.
The referee would have cautioned both sides had it been a boxing match, but the soporific tedium suddenly ended with a bang in the 24th minute. Shaahee, who has perhaps unfairly been seen as a luxury player by some Grilled supporters, wriggled free against the attentions of both Domínguez and Rasmus Grønkjær, got all the way to the left byline, and hauled it back for Ling Fuquan
, who only had to stick a boot in to score.
Stunned, JUtd feel prey again the next minute, this time as lu Zunwen
went it himself. The 27 year-old had looked slightly awkward on the right wing, a position he had not played in ages, and he made a good argument for reinstatement in the middle with a powerful charge capped by an even more destructive finish.
JUtd had not gone two down since opening day, when CCP's Wong Chang De did it in twelve minutes, and they had not ever gone 0-3 down for their current stint in II.2. This was what was about to happen, though, as Woon jostled successfully for position as Shaahee swung another cross in. He appeared to have binned the opportunity when he tapped it far wide with his second touch, but put paid to his doubters by ripping it across Gröne and into the back of the net.
Grilled thought that they had it won at this point, judging from how their marking became much looser, and JUtd captain Antonio Guridi managed to sprint in from the left nearly unopposed before Ling finally woke up and blocked his shot. Yao Erfu was on hand to collect the ball after it spun into the middle, however, and he intelligently sidestepped Qassem Madaini
's approach before reducing the lead with a pinpoint finish.
That should have been enough to shake the Birds up, but neither that nor a half-time talk by Niculae Stanca
had the desired effect, and they were left to rue their carelessness. Maximiliano Domínguez had not had the best of days defensively, but he more than made up for it with a clinical header that would put most strikers to shame, in the 51st minute.
Finally aware that they could still lose this, Grilled creaked into action, but could not prevent an equaliser from arriving within seven minutes. Their defence reacted too quickly when Grønkjær rolled the ball sideways for Yao, and no-one was left to cover Zygmunt Gwizd, who simply walked into the centre and was left with a sitter when Yao got the ball to him.
JUtd then went into the lead, with it being Grilled's turn to be shocked, after a stumble by Ling allowed Raul Gabriël to advance and crash a quite unstoppable effort in off the bottom of the crossbar. Noubaryan could hardly be blamed for that, but the Birds were still left to contemplate being down, after leading by three at one stage.
They could so easily have rolled over at this point, but Woon stepped up and led by example, snapping tirelessly at the heels of the JUtd midfielders, who had shifted to a holding game. This indirectly led to Seytek Djekshenkulov
's leveller in the 67th minute, after a forced clearance led to a quick long throw that Tian Yonghang
This gave the previously-despondent Grilled fans renewed hope that the Birds could pull off another sensational last-minute win, while the away section continued at full volume with a memorable scalp still not out of the question, but to both set of fans' disappointment, the match returned to being drudgery as Grilled monopolized possession but got nowhere.