Seal of Disapproval
Dream Seals started off brightly, but fell behind thereafter, and then leaked four goals in the last ten minutes to flatter the Birds with an 8-1 final score. The Seals did the best they could with the personnel at hand, but their ageing lineup could not hold against Grilled, who while no spring chickens either, were on average several years younger.
Seals did have some relief in that they had kept the Birds to a draw in II.2 several seasons ago, with then-scorer Dutchman Menke Boost back as one of the major forces in their squad. As for the Birds, Zhao Jing Wei
and Lee Lee Hao
were thrust back into action, as Clément Meyer
replaced Low Aik Jia
on the left wing.
Boost began strongly by stitching a long passing move together from kick-off, but the Birds then got their act together, and things fell their way nine minutes in. Lee Lee Hao
should have lost the ball after stumbling in mid-dribble, but that had the unintended effect of drawing Leopold Hezemans in, upon which Lee recovered magnificently with a sidestep. Gene Filippone
had gambled with a forward dash at that instant, and dished the finishing touch past Czech captain Marek Sedlák in goal.
The opponents were still a whirlwind of activity at this stage, and several Seals players rolled back the years as they advanced fearlessly through the middle at pace. They picked each other out with the assurance that only longtime teammates could have, and Julen Pizarro levelled eventually after standing firm against Ling Fuquan
's attempts at boxing him out.
Filippone then had an embarassing moment, where he flung himself purposefully to the ground after being tapped lightly on the ankle by Jean-Pierre De Bruyn, which did not fool referee Geert De Muyer in the least. Filippone accepted his yellow card sheepishly, though Grilled's worries were soon eased by Zhao Jing Wei
's sharpshooting from the corner of the penalty area for 2-1.
It was hardly enough for the Birds to relax, but their task was made simpler by Polish winger Kazimierz Kurz pulling up with a serious muscle injury in the 34th minute. His replacement Ahmad Termuzi bin Hassan was well out of practice, and it showed, allowing the previously-occupied Clément Meyer
to bomb freely forward in support.
This led to two for Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
in as many minutes, with Seals finally not being able to cope on the flanks. This also took the local Grilled star past the 75 goal milestone in the Cup, and less than twenty adrift of Maikel Rotteveel's 95.
The unexpected windfall appeared to be enough for the Birds, who toned it down somewhat for the second half, perhaps with ther visit to Pudgy Penguins' The Igloo Dome in mind. Most of this period was a bore for the spectators, who were treated to a roundabout of Grilled halfheartedly making their way up, before sending it all the way back to the defensive line, as the Seals camped in their own half.
There seemed an unspoken signal to go for it as the 80th minute was reached, which caught Dream Seals unawares; Meyer burst past Ahmad Termuzi on the left, which by itself was not very remarkable, but the difference was that he had ample backup this time. Mohd Safri was jostling to be at the front of the line as Meyer shaped up to center it, but Ling Fuquan
would be closest, and the defender delighted the Grilled fans with an acrobatic finish.
The hardworking Meyer went for it himself in the 82nd minute, and succeeded in powering it past Sedlák, before Chow Ying Lee
picked up where he left off, likewise with hard and accurate shooting.
Seals were going out, but they refused to go quietly, and mustered their reserves to try and garner one last response. It was a praiseworthy effort inspired by Boost's determined run, and former 4rsenaL and Titus Titanium IV forward Song Hui Kian cleverly teed it up for Pizarro. The Spaniard ripped it straight through his laces, but would be disappoined as it clipped the outside of Wong's right post.
Rashid bin Ahmad
was then called in to take Filippone's place for extra time, and the former national U-20 defender made the most of his time and fresh legs, sprinting ahead of the spent Thorsten Luttenberger to guide Wong Ping Shun
's short cross home in the last minute.