Grilled got to the sixth round of the Cup after defeating Ang Mo Kio side Saved United before a capacity crowd at Ouranós, but it was far from plain sailing as they had to grind away against the hosts' spirited defence, before enduring a period of uncertainty after forward-turned-defender Aronne Manfio cut their lead early in the second half.
had promised in the build-up to take the opponents very seriously indeed, and he made good on that pledge with a close to full-strength starting eleven. Chow Ying Lee
was the only glaring absentee, with Leong Wan Kang
taking over his role as the Birds' attacking focus, while Gleb Dorogan
was left on the bench after Alex Fonseca
was preferred for the left wing position.
and Seytek Djekshenkulov
were both picked despite having featured on Sunday, but Saved gave indications of being prepared for these big guns, as they formed up in two distinct banks of five. Other than French centreback Damien Provost, all the other players picked in defence have been known to play elsewhere, but Grilled would soon find that his meant they were comfortable enough in possession.
After rushing the man with the ball in the hopes of forcing an early mistake failed, Grilled reverted to their usual direct game, but Saved had the numbers to withstand most attacks. This impasse went on until the 20th minute, when Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
sidled onto a tap-on by Fonseca, then caught the athletic Martín Sánchez-Bella unprepared with an inch-perfect drive into his near post.
His 87th minute winner on Monday seems to have done him a world of good, and Mohd Safri always looked dangerous as he darted tirelessly into any spaces he could find. He became literally a hazard when he changed directions sharply and was run into by Juan Ensuyo, and it was the Spaniard who came off the worse with a dislocated elbow. It was a great loss for Saved as Ensuyo had been a calming influence, while his replacement Kévin Vanden Bempt was less effective in that regard.
A second soon went in as Saved readjusted, with Shiya Shaahee
recording his fifth goal in four starts, after throwing Jesús Balmaceda off by going straight infield. No-one was sure whose responsibility the streaking Maldives winger was, and Shaahee obligingly sidestepped the uncertain challenges that came his way, before placing a grounder in.
Despite being two up, Grilled never looked a certainty with Saved regularly making good distance on their counters, and their fans certainly hadn't lost hope by half-time. They were in full voice when their team came out after the break, and Manfio soon answered their prayers with a gritty looping header, set up by a square ball from indefatigable 36 year-old skipper Benoît Horcholle.
For a time, Saved looked the more likely to score as they made up for a defensive formation with sheer willingness to break forward with little support, and the Birds didn't help themselves with a general lack of concentration in attack. Mohd Safri himself put a sitter wide in the 71st minute, and Shaahee too lost some of his shine and was reduced to deliberately holding up play after losing the ball in a vulnerable position, earning himself a card.
Sensing trouble, Stanca sent Djan Bacelar
on to inject some energy, and the Brazilian duly hammered Santo D'Antoni as his first contribution. Bacelar did succeed in confusing the Saved players as he raced about with no apparent plan, though, and this perhaps aided Seytek Djekshenkulov
in bombing forward and crashing a third home off his good right foot.
That called for another tactical substitution, with Gleb Dorogan
asked to help shield the defence in place of a winded Abdul bin Jantan
, and this the new captain did well enough. Grilled even had time for a fourth as Tian Yonghang
put his broken streak behind him with an impressive tenth for the season after staying on his feet on a mad dash down the right, for which Nil Ramos de Oliveira was retroactively booked.
Leong Wan Kang
, who had not gotten anything to his name, but did put in a day's honest work, was then carded too after a petulant protest, which prompted Stanca to pull him off for Yvan Lefébure
's first official appearance in nearly two seasons.