Chow Doubles Up
The Birds continued picking up momentum with
their third win on the trot, in the process paying Chemistry back for their last meeting in the Singapore Cup. The longtime City flagbearers, who have made their home in III.3 in recent years, fought on even ground against Grilled for the better part of an hour, but would fall away as the Birds' superior ball retention took its toll.
The former S-League and Singapore Cup winners had been in a lull since dropping out of the top flight sixteen seasons ago, but their squads have tended to be essentially concrete. Having built a defence around 25 year-old Italian skipper Vincenzo Ornaghi, Chemistry sprung a right side-heavy offence for the day, with Portuguese trickster Vladyslav Kachmaryk in charge of making plays happen, and hometown lad Gerald Leung acting as a defensive fifth man.
They didn't take long to get with the plan, and just six minutes in, Leung robbed an indecisive Rinor Isufi
, and then found Kachmaryk with a forty-yard crossfield floater worthy of any league. Lee Lee Hao
misjudged the header as it came in, which left Kachmaryk clear and free. Ling Fuquan
approached in vain hope of stemming the leak, as the winger simply bypassed him with an accurate cross that Poh Kim Hock volleyed home.
Grilled would not crack at that, but were low on ideas for the moment. Hariharan Prabhu
ground out a number of sideways and backpasses if only to stabilize the situation, which didn't seem as if it would lead to anything until Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
sprung a wondershot in the 21st minute. Although it was lifted onto the crossbar by Tommaso Petretta's outstretched left arm, Clément Meyer
had followed it up, and was glad to head the rebound in.
A slip by Anton Veiderma combined with a panicky response from the young Chan Yau Eng gave Chow an unexpected chance in the 26th minute, but it was not one of the forward's best efforts. Chemistry looked hard-pressed to regain their initiative, but could have benefitted from a sucker punch in the 33rd minute; Franco Garbarino backheeled the ball sharply towards goal under heavy guard, but Wong Tian Han
managed to get down in time, despite being unsighted.
With the match unacceptably tied at one-all, Djan Bacelar
's remedy was to buff up Grilled's possession, and to that end he swapped Rashid bin Ahmad
for Gene Filippone
. The Swiss centreback was indeed much more urgent in getting forward, and there was a spurt of excitement in the 49th minute, as Mohd Safri's near-miss from a lob was immediately countered by a lung-bursting charge by fullback Antonio Villalaúd down the left. Unfortunately for him, Hannes Georges had never been an accomplished finisher.
Chow Ying Lee
would finally put Grilled in front after 66 minutes, Clark Won
playing him in after recognizing Tian Yonghang
's dummy run. Bacelar visibly relaxed only after Lee Lee Hao
increased the lead nine minutes later, though. His Chemistry counterpart Erwin Alink was seen contesting the deflected lob on the grounds that Lee had been marginally offside, but referee Michael Selstad wasn't interested.
Selstad was on it when Filippone knocked Garbarino aside as Chemistry rushed from kick-off, and they would cancel out Lee's goal within seconds. Garbarino was again involved as he jumped highest to help Anton Veiderma's indirect free-kick over the massed backline, and Villalaúd arrived as if by clockwork to bang it in from what was obviously a much-practised combination.
The Birds themselves struck back through Chow instantly to maintain the initiative, however, and Clark Won
's excellent sharpshooting from just inside the penalty area secured the win in the 80th minute. Ling Fuquan
was not about to take it for granted just yet from his holding up an attempted quick throw-in by Malaysian forward Lin Lai Jing, which provoked the only yellow card of a largely well-behaved fixture.