Yonghang Shines Yet
Zhao Jing Wei
claimed the win he craved, as the Birds proved too good for SpartanSG even on their home ground and with Shaiful Bahri bin Ahmad Rosdi in good form. Reigning Player of the Season Tian Yonghang
went all out to prove that last season was no fluke, and dumped in two goals by the 21st minute to put Grilled on easy street.
Few present had forgotten the 5-5 thriller that took place here last season, that had the hosts racing to a three-goal lead before Grilled found themselves. This time, the Spartans had skipper Lóránt Somogyi back, while for their part the Birds again started Gleb Dorogan
for only the third time since his return, instead of unleashing a clearly-impatient Shiya Shaahee
. They would not regret it, however, as Dorogan was an oasis of calm on the right, and that was enough to see off a SpartanSG side not at their best.
While they had been far more cautious in fending off Young Tigers last week, the hosts seemed to recognize that they were obliged to attack at The Kherubim, which was to prove their undoing. Reinout van der Meer was too often left alone against the predations of three forwards straining to erase the memory of last week's unedifying defeat, and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
socked one in the fourth minute that arched marginally wide.
Even as Mohd Safri shook his head at the miss, the focus passed to a man who can seemingly do no wrong at the moment. Tian Yonghang
danced his way with the ball right back into the penalty area, and flicked it past former youth international Mok Kim Sze, before his teammate had time to properly mourn.
There was simply no stopping Tian as he grew from strength to strength, entering one of those trance-like periods where it seems near-impossible to take the ball off him. Stepovers, sidesteps and stop-starts blended together into a thing of beauty, as Tian advanced fearlessly wherever he wanted to go, only laying it off when he had committed two or more defenders to himself. One development that began this way ended with Woon Shun An
feeding Zhu Changchun
from the left, but Zhu didn't connect with the header well.
Again, Tian was not suspectible to such human failings today, and the moment the Grilled supporters had all been waiting for happened in due time. Zhao Jing Wei
had his head up as he shielded the ball in midfield, and when he saw Tian make his move out of the corner of his eye, slid an inch-perfect through ball that split the SpartanSG defence in twain. Tian took it in his stride to make it two.
The Spartans did see a lot of the ball, but unfortunately for them, found it hard to supply Swen Gemeinhardt properly, with the Grilled defence now having the luxury of staying back. With Qassem Madaini
on high alert, Gemeinhardt and November were given little time or space, and Somogyi was for once bereft of ideas too.
The match then descended to a series of standard crosses pumped in from wide by the home team, most of which were all too easily cleared by a Grilled side prepared for them. As the Birds lost their incisiveness as the game dragged on, it all became a bit difficult to watch, and empty pockets began to appear in the stadium after nearly an hour of such insipid exchanges.
It began to pick up again when Dorogan came off for Abdul bin Jantan
in the 75th minute, and the 31 year-old swiftly made it his business go make things happen. The forwards, inspired by the new addition, began moving about more once again, but for some reason or other didn't click as bin Jantan tried through pass after through pass.
It took Ling Fuquan
's yellow card for a really bad tackle on November to bring the third goal, as the Spartans massed in Grilled's penalty area to at least snatch a consolation. Edmund Kryus
plucked the poorly-struck free-kick out of the air, though, and a huge kick downfield saw lu Zunwen
just waiting to pounce.