|Season 53||L||0 - 5||Tournament (Group Phase)|
|Season 38||L||2 - 4||Qualification|
|Season 37||W||5 - 4||League|
|Season 37||L||4 - 2||League|
|Season 28||W||1 - 3||Cup|
Fireworks At Flames
Grilled would leave Isle of Flames Arena with no points, but four goals and some measure of assurance in running the legendary club so close on their home ground. All three of Grilled's strikers put it past former Trinidad & Tobago national goalkeeper Jerome Wiles, and had they been slightly more collected defensively, it could well have been different.
Then again, the point with the Birds' prevailing philosophy was that they would go for broke, but Djan Bacelar
did make concessions for Flames' formidable midfield by dropping the flamboyant Low Aik Jia
for Lee Lee Hao
's pure workrate on the left. Ling Fuquan
also sat out, with Clément Meyer
bolstering the core from deep.
Compared to this patchwork, Flames were the very picture of 3-5-2 orthodoxy, as they worked the tried-and-tested system to its limits. Grilled found themselves led by the nose almost from kickoff, the well-oiled Flames winning machine giving them barely a moment for pause.
This was a completely changed Isle of Flames from the one that had gone down against Penguins last week, as they pushed forward with both grace and steel. Grilled were never at ease in defence, and it was something of a miracle that they held until the eleventh minute, when Antti Kärkkäinen slid it through for one-season man Ervin Lakatos to score.
The Birds had no clue how to proceed, as their own best weapon was dulled by their opponents' vastly experienced backline. They soon came under siege again, and after Gene Filippone
stepped up too early against nimble Canadian Richard Stetson, Sander Temmerman raced into the opening to knock it in, just like that.
With his team teetering on the edge of crumbling, it would be Chow Ying Lee
who put himself forward. Perhaps the most understated of Grilled's front trio in recent seasons, the just-turned 32 year-old nevertheless kept his calling card - speed. Again partnering with Wong Ping Shun
, he broke Flames' practised offside trap to reduce the deficit.
Flames would shortly after rewiden the lead through Frenchman Quentin Debert, but Grilled were no longer as lost as they had been, and the hosts weren't going to run away with it. Bronisław Zolich showed that they were only human as he let a stiff pass go across him too quickly in the 34th minute, and Zhao Jing Wei
duly punished that lapse for 3-2.
It would be back to 4-2, after Wong Ping Shun
roughed Temmerman up for the game's first booking. This led to a free-kick, bent expertly in by transfer-listed Israeli veteran Avri Dotan. While that was blocked right back, Dotan's second try found the head of Lakatos, and from thence the knee of Meyer, and finally the net. Meyer didn't protest too hard as Lakatos claimed it.
If Grilled were shrinking in the first half, they became a completely changed animal the second, as they took it to a now more-defensive Flames. The reversal of roles was subtle at first, but the Birds were soon ensconced in the Flames half, and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
opened his S-League account with a memorable header off a strange Lee Lee Hao
cross, which also happened to be his 200th career goal.
It was very much game on, but the battle-hardened Flames immediately stopped Grilled's growing momentum with a counterpunch. Despite Per-Erik Strandheim having to foul Chow tactically, they turned that disadvantage into a lightning-fast breakaway, culminating in Debert streaking down the middle and beating Wong Tian Han
with a grounder to the corner.
Not a moment too soon, as the Birds collectively entered an irrepresible mood. As the grizzled home team hunkered grimly down, secure in their two-goal cushion, Grilled launched attack after attack, cutting it down to one within five minutes.
had been excellent throughout, but his invention had always been repressed by a no less inspired Flames back three. Not this time, as he got his own back against Per-Erik Strandheim, slinking about the big Norge before putting his finisher against the post. No problem, as Tian latched onto his own rebound, lifting it classily over Wiles.
Everything was set up for a incredible last fifteen minutes, but in the end, Flames' cool-headed reserve lasted against the Birds' fiery overtures. Richard Stetson could even have confirmed it with a magic strike against the run of play, but Wong Tian Han
got to that one in time.
In the end, there was nothing for it but to give loyal servant Abdul bin Jantan
an S-League appearance, as Grilled stomached their defeat.