|Season 37||W||1 - 0||Qualification|
Last Third Gasp
Grilled survived an obdurate Kim Tae Hee FC selection to extend their membership in the S-League for another season, after the visitors had put themselves in a position to wrest it from them for most of the game. The Birds' endurance won out eventually, and they closed this long and tiring campaign with a four-goal salute.
Despite being founded mere weeks apart, the two sides' only other competitive meeting before this had been another qualifier, and with the clubs in the same positions. That fixture, exactly twenty seasons ago, had concluded with Grilled squeaking by with a 1-0, courtesy of the legendary Quah Han Kok.
While it would be a completely new generation that would face each other after the passage of years, the memory of that defeat had apparently not totally died out, with some good-natured ribbing going on between the old-timers in the build-up to the kick-off. Of course, Kim Tae Hee FC were not discouraged for long by that, having garnered several cups and stints in the top flight since, or it could have been a sorer point.
The release of the lineups unveiled a bombshell by their head coach Tan Su Jun - Nicola Spinella, their gamewinner against United last Sunday, was out. The reason for this was soon recognized, as the visitors formed themselves up into an ultra-defensive 5-5-0, clearly aiming to take their chances on a low-scoring affair.
They would have been encouraged by the ongoing wet weather, which despite the best efforts of Grilled's groundkeeping staff, had turned the pitch into a soggy mess. For that, Grilled were not yielding too much to the heavens, apart from keeping Low Aik Jia
benched, probably as his particular talents were not particularly suited to the battle at hand.
Neither was it to Kim Tae Hee FC's Cherubino Olivi, who nearly let Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
in early on, as the ball didn't behave as he expected it to. Thankfully for him, Jasper Andresen was watching closely, and Grilled's bid for a second-minute lead came to nothing.
It was a different story at the other end, and after another full-frontal assault had been beaten back, Ling Fuquan
missed a header that saw Peter Jansson left with a clear path to goal. Wong Tian Han
did all he could, but there was no stopping Jansson poking it across for Cristian Benţa to walk into an empty net.
This turned out to be the main motif of the first half, which saw Grilled monopolize the ball, only for the visitors to come closer to scoring on the frequent counters. There were a few promising moments, such as when Truls Bendix had to give up a card to halt the productive Wong Ping Shun
, but in the end it was Wong Tian Han
who had to be called to action to save against Dumitru Muntean.
While the Birds maintained so much possession that it seemed almost impossible that they would not find an equaliser, the home fans understandably began getting worried as the second half wound on, all the more as the usually dependable Wong had a penalty stopped by Kim Tae Hee FC's Russian goalie Veniamin Guryanov eleven minutes in.
Although the constant backing-up was clearly taking a toll on them, it was still unclear if Grilled could string together enough of a collection to get a breakthrough, or if it would be one of those days
. Thankfully, their loyal fans did not have much longer to wait, as in the 67th minute, a temperamental drive by the oft-undersung Clément Meyer
found a hole in the opposing central defence.
This buoyed the Birds and shook Kim Tae Hee FC in equal measure, and before they could make the necessary adjustments to at least force extra time, Grilled struck again. Now uncertain as to whether they should try to hit back, the visitors were neither here nor there as Lee Lee Hao
ran it down the middle, and skipper Narcis Cercel's frantic instructions came too late to keep Zhao Jing Wei
from polishing off that move with a measured grounder.
This at least made the decision for them, but sitting back meant that they had a lot of ground to cover if they were to threaten Grilled's goal. Goalscorer Benţa discovered this to his detriment on Kim Tae Hee's best attempt of the half, as he made forty yards with difficulty down the flank, before losing the ball to a puddle.
The visiting fans admirably retained their belief, but that began to erode after Chow Ying Lee
increased Grilled's lead to 3-1 in the 78th minute, through a rare early effort on the edge of the area; by the time Zhu Changchun
rounded the scoring off with a heavily-deflected header off Wong Ping Shun
's cross, they were mostly resigned to their fate.