Postnikov Posts Double
Grilled's stuttering season hit another pothole, who ate their third S-League defeat in a row against fellow strugglers Pearl Divers. There would be more of the defensive laxity from yesterday's tournament letdown at Ballota Stadium, where the home side were the more threatening from start to finish.
With little left to play for, this was an example of a fixture that would seldom have made the Birds' end-of-season highlights, but it was still disconcerting to witness how little they were up for it. Ling Fuquan
kept his place despite his outrageous foul against gigole, and went on to supply few reasons as to why he should retain it, as regular partner Gene Filippone
watched forlornly from the stands.
Divers didn't take long to expose the Birds' weakness, with Georgian striker Rashid Postnikov doing so within five minutes. Wong Ping Shun
had never been the fastest on the backfoot, and after Mosè Corghi surged past him after slickly hoofing the ball into space with his first touch, there was no catching up. Woon Shun An
gave chase, but never got close as Postnikov darted in front of Ling to finish up.
Grilled had their first look at Divers' goal in the 17th minute, thanks to Ang Leong Kum
. Ang had been the sole bright spark in a turgid Birds lineup, and while he lost his fair share of possession, he was also about the only Grilled player who managed to create. Some odd dribbling threw Theo Fels von Hartenstein off his game and allowed Zhu Changchun
in, but Bolivian custodian Gian Luca Gavanelli covered well and sprang with great agility to deflect Zhu's close-range effort.
Wong Tian Han
wasn't having the greatest of days either, on the other hand, and he was caught in two minds when Postnikov's countryman Vano Adamiani swept up the right wing in the 20th minute. Initially having decided to challenge the striker up close and personal, Wong tried to get back when it was evident that he had misjudged the distance, and Postnikov duly punished the mistake with a looping header well out of Wong's range.
This was about it for an otherwise uninspiring half, which had fewer chances than the 2-5-3 put out by both sides should have promised. Chow Ying Lee
, so often Grilled's gamechanger in recent months, was mostly a passenger today as even Jaques Genz made him look slow, and this caused an already out-of-rhythm frontline to be even more disjointed.
Wong Ping Shun
had evidently been given instructions to try and push the pace, but it was clear that he had not fully recovered from his recent injury, and he was noticeably lagging by the 50th minute, all the more given that he had to curb Corghi too. This proved too much for him alone, and Divers made it 3-0 when Corghi ran through and crossed it for Theo Fels von Hartenstein to half-volley neatly past Wong Tian Han
The Birds were crying out for some pace, but even though they had it available in the form of Rinor Isufi
and Low Aik Jia
, a deep-in-thought Djan Bacelar
gave no indication that he was considering throwing them on.
A complete thrashing was on the cards as Postnikov continually gave his markers the runaround, but Grilled survived with some help from the woodwork, and Divers then toned it down by removing Genz and putting Alfredo Gandarilla on as a third defender. Strangely enough, this seemed to embolden the Birds instead, and Ang Leong Kum
ensured that they would at least not return empty-handed, with a delicate chip over Gavanelli after switching flanks in the 74th.
It might all have been so different had Tian Yonghang
managed to stab it in after Lee Lee Hao
's impressive rampage down the left, but Gavanelli made it look easy with his immediate rush off his line. And, as if that was not enough of a downer, referee Luigi Dondi bought a doubtful fall by Postnikov, and awarded the penalty over an enraged Ling Fuquan
's protests. Wong Tian Han
blinked first in the shootout, and collapsed early to his left leaving Marian Mungiu to slot it straight down the centre.
Mungiu nearly doubled up from the restart, after Vano Adamiani got the beating of a spent Ang on the right, but Clément Meyer
sorted things out in the ensuing mess. Adamiani had more in the locker, though, and claimed the Divers' fifth and last goal in the 84th minute, as a tired Grilled side gave up the ghost.