Swiftly Does It
The Birds accomplished their mission of getting to the third round within the first eight minutes against plucky Division Four leaders littlehorse, whose 33500-seater Pulau Ubin stadium was filled to capacity for the occasion. The hosts had begun making a name for themselves as a place for promising young defenders to congregate, and their trainee brigade did restrict Grilled to just two goals.
With Wong Tian Han
complaining of a persistent niggle in the warm-up, Djan Bacelar
made a last-minute decision to start Dan Seng
in his stead. Elsewhere, it was also a take-no-chances lineup considering the occasion, with Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
and Chow Ying Lee
gracing the strikeforce, and Tian Yonghang
presumably out only due to suspension. Gene Filippone
would test himself in central midfield, with Lee Lee Hao
leading the side out.
Lee would win the toss against his Italian opposite number Giovanni Lenza, and the Birds would shatter the home supporters' hearts on their first foray. Having yet to concede this season, littlehorse's proud record was broken when Ling Fuquan
cut a swathe down the right side, before crossing it in just as he got swarmed by eager defenders. Chow Ying Lee
was looking out for it, and thumped it by Tong Ting Su almost nonchalently.
This was not quite what the fans were expecting, but they recovered their singing voice shortly. The littlehorse players were slower to acclimatize to Grilled's rather pacier game, though, and free spirit Remco van der Ban
doubled the lead in the eighth minute, crashing a rather fortuitous long shot just beyond Tong's reach.
The floodgates never opened, however, as littlehorse circled the wagons with admirable discipline. Remco's following effort was well-parried by Tong, which developed into the hosts' maiden effort on target. Dan Seng
saved from Romanian Onuţ Drogeanu, and within seconds Gene Filippone
had put it into the side netting at the other end.
littlehorse had certainly not given up on the fixture, and they sneaked a couple of fine counterattacks past the Grilled defence's noses. Sadly for them, Faisol Dahlan sent his first-half try slightly wide, while lanky Hong Kong import Pau Hangze went even closer three minutes after the restart, threatening to break the crossbar with his piledriver, with Dan Seng
Grilled, whom had been unusually quiet after gathering their two-goal cushion, came back to life after sixty minutes. A flurry of sophisticated passes around the littlehorse penalty area forced homegrown Chau Kwang Kong into a rash tackle and a booking, after which Chow and Mohd Safri spurned decent chances to put the result beyond doubt.
Although Grilled had failed to extend their lead, the hosts were by this time largely spent, as exemplified by Cheng Changshan having to come off with cramps. Rashid bin Ahmad
's rare 70th minute attempt was stopped by Tong, and there would be next to no action of note until Rashid went off for Qassem Madaini
in the next to last minute.