Newbies Nudge It
The Birds lost their third in succession as the away leg of The Olde Jurong Derby finished 5-4 in newbies are newbies' favour, with Petrică Dan's brace ultimately too much to make up for Grilled's rally specialists. There were always going to be goals with both teams accustomed to 2-5-3 formations, but the hosts had the defensive edge, if barely, with Dan and Juha Hatara preventing a couple.
newbies had a full side to pick from with the exception of national legend Roshadi bin Che Rusli, who is winding down his much-storied career and taking his coaching badges, while Grilled likewise were injury-free with Edmund Kryus
cleared to start in a late medical. With Hovaness Noubaryan
and Dan Seng
presiding over the previous two defeats, the travelling support were understandably relieved to have the Polish custodian back.
Grilled were shaky with several misplaced passes to start off, but they had enough to open the scoring through Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
. It was the basic corner combination, with Qassem Madaini
putting it into the box, and Mohd Safri climbing over assigned marker Ante Skrjanc to batter it in with his forehead.
There has not nearly been enough examples of that move for the Grilled faithful, whose good cheer was swiftly dampened when Skrjanc made amends within six minutes. The defence opened for him as Madaini and Fuquan fanned out to cover the forwards, and Skrjanc duly plastered a world-class shot into Kryus' far corner. Nothing anybody could do about a strike of that class.
newbies' budding midfield maestro Peter Haley was then booked for thundering into Seytek Djekshenkulov
from the kick-off, his third caution of the season which will see the 23 year-old captain miss the next match. That didn't stop newbies from going in hard, and the referee next awarded a penalty when Hatara seemed to upend Chow Ying Lee
in the box in the 25th minute.
The crowd hissed when video replays confirmed that the defender had barely touched Chow, but to be fair the latter was travelling at such a speed that it wouldn't have taken much to throw him off. Madaini lined the ball up, and nervelessly rifled it down the middle against Javier Caamaño.
newbies need not have been too upset, given how generous the Grilled defence has tended to be. Ling had no idea where he was supposed to be on the restart, sprinting down the flanks for a pass that never came, and left Yue Haoping with carte blanche to zero in on the plentitude of space left behind and score.
Grilled skipper Madaini was nothing if not involved, and he nearly got a second when a long series of short passes concluded with nobody picking up his run. Caamaño got down low to smother the ball after Madaini took a second too long to compose himself for the unfamiliar situation, though, a failing that the Saudi veteran would soon regret.
The Birds always needed goals with how vulnerable their defence was, and at no time was it more apparent when Giulio Bollini's corner went straight at Kryus, only for the goalie to misjudge the jump, frantically try to punch instead of grab, and only manage to tap it to Petrică Dan, who only had to bend and nod it in. Dan repeated the trick in a minute, again placed perfectly to take advantage of Huang Kangyan's outstanding juggling at the head of the penalty area.
The Birds recognized what was happening, but as always were helpless to stop it, as even those extra defensive drills didn't have much of an effect on players whose instincts were geared the other way. There were numbers back indeed when Skrjanc powered a header in the general direction of goal, but all that happened was that Zhu Changchun
and Tian Yonghang
collided when trying to get to it, with the header then catching Zhu on the side of the head and carooming in, when Kryus had it covered.
To add insult to injury, lu Zunwen
was hauled up for a yellow card for his shoving in the build-up, and Grilled appeared completely sunk, being three down at half-time.
newbies emerged from the tunnel with defence in mind, but who would have done differently from newbies head coach Gong Wing-Fung in the circumstances? They nearly even got a sixth, as confusion after Grilled's substitution of Alex Fonseca
for lu Zunwen
left Zhang Ruotian with a small opening, but the winger could only scratch the post.
Having come back from exactly the same position against SpartanSG barely a month ago, Grilled were not about in throw in the towel yet, but newbies had the organization to deflect the Birds' most direct assaults. It took the capricious genius of one Tian Yonghang
to set the wheels in motion, as he flicked it over his own head, and Caamaño's, to get it in with his back to goal.
Time was running out fast, however, and although Abdul bin Jantan
displayed great touch to take Grilled to within one goal with his perfectly-timed chip after good approach work by Fonseca, newbies clung on for the final five minutes well enough to secure the three points.