|Season 58||W||2 - 3||League|
|Season 58||W||5 - 1||Tournament (Group Phase)|
|Season 57||L||2 - 1||League|
|Season 57||W||4 - 1||League|
|Season 56||L||2 - 3||Tournament (Group Phase)|
What looked like a gratifying end to a long march concluded in catastrophe for the Birds, as The Cooking Pot saw Grilled get on the wrong end of the most soul-shattering turnarounds in recent memory. Vice-captain Zhao Jing Wei
's 35th minute goal appeared to be enough to take full points against the obdurate singnet_utd defence, but it all came crashing down with just three minutes remaining, leaving the Birds empty-handed.
The reigning Singapore Cup winners were coming off a shutout loss to Pearl Divers, to which Canadian head coach Joseph Gardiner responded with the S$4.7 million purchase of Polish winger Szymon Bućko. It soon became apparant that singnet_utd were packing an interesting asymmetric lineup, as Ling Zhicheng and Fang Kunxian joined Bućko in clamping down on the right - which was a little odd, since Zhu Changchun
was not exactly eager to advance on that end.
The visitors would give Grilled an early scare when Ling's artistic flick off a corner kick knock-on by Jaakko Jämsén swished past the far post, but it would be the Birds who would take over after that; Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
was not happy with himself after his nodded ball from a goalmouth scrap was acrobatically blocked by the committed Pascal Durlinger, after Wong Ping Shun
had swung it in after twelve minutes.
The first-half still belonged to the Birds, though, and given that they were seldom if ever worried in their own half, it was a question of how many shots they could muster. With the forwards finding it hard going against a singnet_utd side clearly under instructions to double-team them at every opportunity, it was left to the midfield to chip in from range.
Thus it was that Zhao Jing Wei
finally lighted up the scoreboard, after yet more grafting from the workhorse-like Wong Ping Shun
. Facing off against Tellis Rouvas for the umpteenth time, Wong managed to squeeze it through to Zhao at the boundary of the penalty area, and the former Chicken Wings star sidefooted it exactly into singnet_utd's top corner.
This breakthrough was met by lusty cheers from the stands, no doubt further buoyed by real-time updates that results elsewhere were also going their way. With Grilled not looking in trouble of relinquishing their lead at this point, they were not even too dismayed when Italian goalkeeper Nicola Pillitu produced an extraordinary save off Clément Meyer
's wicked drive, to keep his side in touch.
drew some worried glances from the crowd after he took his time getting up following an uncontrolled slide into the advertising side-boards, but he eventually got up under his own power and flashed a thumbs-up to the concerned watchers, which got the longtime Number Four a smattering of applause.
Nicola Pillitu's busy day continued straight after the interval, as he palmed Wong Ping Shun
's fierce effort over the bar. Pillitu was certainly earning his keep and more, though the constant patrolling by singnet_utd's midfielders meant that it was not as bad as it could have been. However, it still did not look good for them at this stage, with Chinese international Hong Kunqi plowing a lonely furrow all by himself in the Grilled half.
As it turned out, Gardiner had a masterstroke up his sleeve, and this involved getting German forward Ekfried Foag on for Hong. Foag's trickier behaviour nearly brought them immediate dividends, as he slid the ball between Gene Fillipone's legs on a breathtaking counterattack started by Ling Zhicheng's interception of a square pass along the half-way line. Unfortunately, Foag's final ball to Addie Mes went a bit too far, and Mes could only put it into the side-netting.
This made the previously-assured Birds side a fair bit more tetchy, as their slender lead looked increasingly insubstantial despite time running down. Tellis Rouvas' late challenge on Clément Meyer
did not help matters either, and the offended Grilled supporters made it a point to harangue the Greek whenever he touched to ball, after that.
It would be Rouvas who would have the last laugh this time, however. With less than ten minutes remaining, the Birds had settled into a routine of waiting out the clock, having evidently forgotten that their visitors had won the Cup on the back of some scintillating attacks. Wong Ping Shun
would come to regret putting the ball behind under pressure in the 86th minute, as Rouvas worked his way through the throng to head past Ling Fuquan
standing guard at the post.
This was just the beginning of singnet_utd's late surprise. The stunned Grilled team had barely lost the ball from the kick-off, when singnet_utd skipper Addie Mes embarked on a dazzling solo rush from the left. The Grilled defenders were probably right to stand off rather than risk another penalty, but unfortunately Mes would prove more than capable of putting it into goal with a precise swing from his left foot.
This was too much to bear for Zhao Jing Wei
, who surely knew than Fang Kunxian was baiting him by his standing over the ball, but nevertheless rose to it and got carded for his troubles. Wong Tian Han
would prevent Mes from finding the net again with his cheeky chip from outside, but a third would not have factored into the bigger picture, in any case.