Grilled kept their faint promotion hopes alive by recovering from being two goals down to reprise their 4-2 win over Robbie Football Club earlier in the season, both these games being the only times this campaign in which a side has hit three or more past their first team. And for this, the Birds had their previously-underperforming forward line to thank, as the trio of strikers found an opportune time to rediscover their eye for goal.
The supporters probably wouldn't have minded either way, though, given how they feted the team in the open-top bus procession immediately preceding the match. The fact that it was allowed to go ahead had some figuring that Niculae Stanca
had already written the Birds' title challenge off, and when Luigi Antonio De Rosa flummoxed Gene Filippone
the same way that Filippone did to the Random Curiosity defence some days ago before scoring, it looked as if Robbie Football Club were going to have an easy day.
RFC's sole absence was Dutch defender Milo Nieuwenburg, who is still recuperating from a freak injury suffered playing up front in a friendly match. Other than that, it was their feared ultra-defensive 5-4-1, set up to contain and then strike decisively with a single blow or two, ideally through a clinical thrust down the right led by Alexey Komardin. Newcomer Sepp Kleine was kept to the bench.
With that part of their strategy bearing fruit after just four minutes, RFC were confident enough to dig in against what must have been a dog-tired Grilled team, which had only Low Aik Jia
rested from Wednesday's exertions. The Birds did little to dispel this notion through most of the first half, as one half-hearted attack after another broke against Robbie's five-man backline.
The visitors appeared to have finished the job in the 41st minute, as they, like Random Curiosity FC, exposed Grilled's weakness defending corners. Víctor Moliner floated one in, and Grilled were overly concerned with marking Komardin, leaving Milan Gulikers with a free header that left Wong Tian Han
Given that the fans were expecting something like that, the atmosphere at The Cooking Pot remained positive, and then Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
gave them the signal to really let loose. RFC had gotten a tiny bit too comfortable after their second, and a coordinated rush by the Birds' forward line allowed Mohd Safri to bash past and reduce.
Not giving their opponents time to figure out what was going on, the Grilled icon recovered the ball to allow a quick restart, and they did it again to the delight of the celebrating fans. This time, it was pumped wide to Cup hero Wong Ping Shun
, who did his intimidating steamroller-style dribble to the inside. Just before the brave Gulikers stepped in, Wong released the ball to Tian Yonghang
, who cut past Salvatore Di Giacomo at top speed before equalising.
Referee Andi Fleischmann awarded the goal immediately, before being alerted to the sight of Gulikers bleeding all over his shirt - apparently, Wong couldn't check his run in time, and the Belgian got the worst of the ensuing clash of heads. Fleischmann's response was to book Wong after the fact, as RFC were forced to bring teenager Gerard Jian in after their medic indicated that Gulikers would not be able to continue.
The singing continued through the break, buoyed by Grilled's unlikely escape act, and it was the Birds who took the initiative in the second half. Jian, for all his potential, is still not somebody you want in central defence against Chow Ying Lee
, who blew past the slightly-overawed kid in the 50th minute to send Zhao Jing Wei
's threaded pass flying past Dennis Damkjær.
then had a rather laughable strike from wide, but given how important the Swiss defender's goals have been of late, no-one begrudged him his occasional fancy. RFC were simply unable to muster up a proper counter given how little time they were allowed on the ball, and broke once again in the 65th, with Woon Shun An
finding his way into the six-yard box for 4-2.
What had been panning out as a restrained party could now not be contained, as the stadium shook with sheer joy. Captain Tian nearly brought the roof down with his dazzling dribble and shot two minutes later, only this time Damkjær spoilt the mood with a magnificent reflex save.
Despite that, RFC simply did not have enough up top to turn the game around, and bar a careless yellow card from Ling Fuquan
, it was Grilled all the way till the final whistle.