The Cheese Strikes Back
Mario Gneos Best
CharlesCheesePie avenged their drubbing last week with a 6-3 home win in the return fixture, their first over the Birds in five meetings. It was a vintage display from the Pies, who chose to go toe-to-toe this time by matching Grilled's 2-5-3, and the decision paid dividends as they struck four times without reply in the second half to cement victory.
Few could fault Grilled for going into this match with an air of certainty, given how comprehensive their last win was, but the full-day shower meant that even simple passes became toss-ups at See Mee Lan Park. National U-20 alumni Wong Chang De and Mohd Ali bin Abu Bakar started up front for the Pies, while Soon Yew Yeng returned to the midfield fold on his 27th birthday.
The first goal came however from one who had participated last Sunday, as Argentine wingback Mario Gneo kept his feet to scuff home in the 22nd minute. With their support solidly behind them, Pies attacked Grilled's flanks with gusto, and only an uncharacteristic miscue from Zulharisan bin Mamud kept them from going two in front.
, who had scored twice against Pies last week, and has been by consensus one of Grilled's breakout players of the season, eased the pressure on his teammates with a deft drop of the shoulder to move past Iskandar Zulkernain bin Saidi and equalise in the 36th minute. If he overcame his usual tendencies to suit the conditions, Woon Shun An
revelled in them, charging around with gusto from his station in central midfield.
Silviu Iancu put the hosts ahead once more with a fine volley, but Grilled would end the half stronger as Tian again replied, this time within the minute, with another dribble from deep through the centre. Woon would however have the final say, as he made good use of his understanding with lu Zunwen
, moving up in tandem to be there when lu made his pass, to give Grilled their first lead of the game.
If this was disspiriting for the home fans, they didn't show it, and the chanting continued through the interval as the sides plotted. There was a short period where Grilled threatened to pull away, but these fears were eased as Soon Yew Yeng beat Madaini on the Birds' overloaded right defence to level in the 55th minute.
With Chow Ying Lee
noticeably losing his cool after several failed attempts to capitalize on his acceleration, Niculae Stanca
decided that his men needed more attacking pop, and introduced Shiya Shaahee
for lu Zunwen
. While Shaahee had been in top form, it turned out to be a spectacularly bad tactical choice, as Dariusz Musiatowicz and company suddenly found themselves freer than ever to invade down the right.
The chickens came to roost in just three minutes, as Madaini was forced into a hashed clearance that only made it as far as Musiatowicz. The return ball should have been cut out, but the Grilled skipper couldn't get his leg up in time, and Gneo held off Ling Fuquan
for long enough to crash one beneath Edmund Kryus
surged up from kick-off, but saw his attempt saved by Javier Mesa, and it was all downhill for Grilled after that as the Pies grew stronger. Wong Chang De's booking was simply a reflection of how much more hungry the home side were, with Grilled often reduced to a reactive posture in the face of Pies' initiative.
Luigi Leanza showed up Grilled's weakness on the opposite flank too as he peeled off Ling to hit a grounder in at Kryus' near post, and the Grilled goalie left himself open to more criticism when he flapped at another Musiatowicz cross in the 73th minute, completely missing it and allowing Mohd Ali bin Abu Bakar to gleefully nod into an empty net.
It was therefore 6-3 when Alex Fonseca
finally made his way in for a grim-faced Abdul bin Jantan
, but while the veteran managed to steady the ship, there was no way that the Birds could fight their way back into it, and the Pies capped the event with two substitutes to draw out the final minutes.