Young Tigers stopped Grilled dead in their tracks, as Portuguese forward Aníbal Vieira struck twice to help hand the Birds their first defeat at The Cooking Pot this season. Tian Yonghang
matched his feat with a brace too, but under-par finishing cost his side a valuable three points.
The biggest question mark hanging over the hosts was whether Zhu Changchun
would return from his layoff, and on this there was good news on Friday - although the midfielder only managed to squeeze in a single training session before his return, he remained clearly within the Birds' first choice, with Low Aik Jia
returning to the bench despite his outstanding midweek outing.
Stanca's decision nearly paid off instantly, as Zhu lifted a delicate chip over the Tigers' backline for Abdul bin Jantan
to follow on. There was a sharp intake of breath as the veteran waited for the ball to come down before applying what must have been a sure finish, but French goalie Michaël Hautin flew across and wiped both the ball and Abdul out in one swoop.
Calls for a penalty were waved aside by referee Schorsch Schaechtelin, who gained no new friends either when he awarded the visitors a free-kick at the other end, despite Evdokim Telichkin appearing to be going nowhere. The Belarusian took it without delay, and Charles Coiffier let it run to Vieira, who tapped it beyond Wong before the Grilled defence figured out what was going on.
The boos turned to cheers shortly after, as Tian Yonghang
hit back right from the kick-off. Wong Ping Shun
battered a path down the right, brooking no resistance, and his straightforward square ball into the centre was controlled and swept into the net by Tian in one smooth motion.
The Tigers were making it very hard for Grilled, despite their burgeoning confidence gained from consecutive wins, and captain Paweł Sucharzewski destroyed his fair share of plays before they could bear fruit. There was no stopping Chow Ying Lee
's mad dash in the 24th, though, and after he was quite cynically bumped into by Witold Bergmański after the latter was beaten for pace, Schaechtelin blew for the penalty.
Wong Ping Shun
's excellent strike was however anticipate by Hautin, who got his body in his way to deflect it just over the bar. The corner was wasted, and worse still, Rashid bin Ahmad
's bad landing from trying to get his head on it required him to be substituted by Qassem Madaini
If that were not bad enough, Ling Fuquan
picked up a needless yellow card for arguing with the referee. Since that makes it three for the campaign for the confrontational defender already, neither of Grilled's first-choice defensive pairing will be available against Benfleet Branch on Wednesday.
The Birds at least secured the first-half lead when Tian took the lead in the league scoring stakes with an opportunistic hit in the 39th minute. Tigers nearly replicated Grilled's immediate response by going for the jugular from the restart, but Coiffier's brilliant strike off Sucharzewski's through ball came back off the post.
The visitors didn't fall off in the second half either, and even began to impose themselves on the hitherio-unflappable Grilled engine room; it was Finnish winger Stefan Rådman's time to shine, in particular, as he strung a magic pass through Wong's legs without looking in a raid down the right. Vieira was just in the right place to take advantage, and rolled it across the goalie into the far bottom corner for 2-2.
With there again being all to play for, Grilled maintained their composure and continued cranking out opportunities. However, the Tigers were prepared, and their disciplined defence in depth narrowly denied the Birds' strikers on multiple occasions. Abdul bin Jantan
collected a caution too sometime, but to no avail.
Young Tigers then pulled off a classic smash-and-grab after Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
's effort stayed in front of the goalline miraculously, and Rådman came away with the ball down the right again. It was the turn of the visiting support to be outraged as Madaini caught his heels on the edge of the box to no action from the referee, but indignation became joy within seconds, for the Finn kept his feet and ran it past Wong Tian Han
With the match now slipping away from them, the Birds spent the remainder of the game searching for an equaliser, but the Tigers held firm to the end, breaking Grilled's seven-match winning streak.