Chow Gaining Steam
Grilled ensured that their Singapore Masters adventure would not end yet, by defeating Joker 9 in their last group match. The game saw Wong Tian Han
finally featuring for the new season, though it would be Chow Ying Lee
who was the name on everyone's lips, with his goals either side of half-time.
Joker 9 were not mathematically out yet, however, and with national pair Kim Ng and Ang Pin Jing in midfield, without even mentioning former U-20 player Narayan Naik, they announced their intention to outdo the Birds once more.
Naik's much-publicised form issues held them back, however, and the opening degenerated into a crude display of aggression. Tian Yonghang
, who recently got his first red, might have gained a taste for blood as evidenced by his senseless feet-first dive in on Joker captain Wei Shuangyuan, and was lucky not to be off.
This was soon followed by Romanian winger Radu Stănculescu showing no restraint after being skinned by Low Aik Jia
. With the match seemingly one more bad tackle from boiling over, the referee sensibly put his foot down, and made it clear that he was going to call every infraction.
Proper football then resumed, which the Birds gradually got the better part of. Lee Lee Hao
had been perhaps the most direct and productive of all present on the pitch, and it was appropriate that he got the scoring going - Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
assisting with a cute little flick.
evidently hadn't gotten the memo as he nudged Víctor Iriztain sneakily in the 33rd minute, which ultimately backfired as wingback Wu Yuan made full use of the uncertainty to equalize; to add to Zhu's embarassment, he was hauled up for a yellow during the celebrations.
There wasn't time for Zhu to feel sorry for himself, though, as Grilled went back on the warpath. Mohd Safri homed straight in on Edson Magallón's goal, but the Mexican goalie tipped his stunner onto the bar. No matter, Chow Ying Lee
had arrived, dodging cleanly by Wu to poach it.
Victor Meda became the fourth man in the book after he lost his cool, but to be fair Mohd Safri's gamesmanship had a lot to do with that. Another Victor nearly got Joker 9 level again after the break, but Iriztain dragged his strike wide from a promising position.
For some reason, Lee had been withdrawn for Zhao Jing Wei
, but despite the former's exceptional forty-five minutes, Zhao soon proved that he was no less effective. Certainly, Lee would probably not have had the control to drop a lob in just the right spot before a rushing Chow in the 56th minute, which the forward gleefully converted.
Wong Ping Shun
then bludgeoned his own way down the middle nine minutes later to make it 4-1, and Grilled's victory was almost assured. Or so it seemed from how their players reacted, which was mostly by taking things down a notch.
This let Joker 9 back in it, and after a long period of not having much to work with, their midfield began to brim with interesting ideas. Dutch Number Ten Krijn van Wijngaarden seemed to have fluffed a golden opportunity in the 73rd minute, being reduced to pulling Ling Fuquan
back after being slow to react... only to steal the sloppy free-kick and put it in the net.
Low Aik Jia
had one last crack at the Joker 9 goal, but Magallón again redirected the rising effort over and out.