|Season 60||L||3 - 0||League|
|Season 60||D||1 - 1||League|
|Season 48||W||1 - 6||Tournament (Playoffs)|
|Season 48||D||2 - 2||Tournament (Group Phase)|
Arcturus Starworks again turned out to be less than a happy hunting ground for the Birds, as the East Coast stadium saw Arcturules deny Grilled once more. Wong Ping Shun
at least prevented it from being a shutout this time, but the 1-3 defeat nevertheless underlined persistent deficiencies sprouting in Grilled's once-feared frontline.
Their ground had been one of the most secure in the league the past season, with only Rovers managing to pull off what was generally agreed to be a flukish win, and it was a given that goals would be hard to come by, once the lineups were released - Arcturules gaffer Hong Shangxuan had retained th 5-5-0 that had served them so well before, and although captain and national defender Teo Hui An had departed for Twenty2 FC, his longtime teammate Tay Jun Nie was there to pick up the slack.
It was looking less than bright for Grilled, with Rinor Isufi
not even on the bench, after whispers of unacceptable behaviour during training. Low Aik Jia
was present, but not a happy camper, with Yuki Irie
being preferred for the left wing spot; replacing the injured Ling Fuquan
instead was Zhao Jing Wei
, who went about the responsibility with his usual grim determination.
This would not be enough, as the match quickly developed to swinging between long and ultimately standoffs in Arcturules' half, and pointed jabs from the patient hosts. The latter certainly were the more dangerous, and after fourteen minutes, Georg Heiderbach got the best of a brief encounter with Wong Ping Shun
. The breaking Kwiryn Skutecki narrowly missed connecting with the cross, but it was alright as countryman Joachim Kapecki slid it against Wong Tian Han
, before poking it in on the second attempt.
The Birds weren't faring too hopelessly just yet, however, and despite their obvious overreliance on Wong to push them forward, the trusty right winger had his moments against Hong Yi Soon. His favoured tack of pumping them in wasn't having the intended effect, but a change-up with Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
proved just the trick. For a second, the opposition defenders weren't sure who to track, and that indecision was enough for Wong to curl a beautiful strike past Hisyam Soleh Zain.
Grilled's being back on level terms lasted all of three minutes, as Italian playmaker Cristiano Fuso again found the net. Oftentimes Arcturules' most advanced man, Fuso operated as ad-hoc forward and third midfielder with equal fluency, and his 26th minute strike transcended both roles. Gene Filippone
appeared to have him after wraps as Tay's cross from deep came it, but a show-stopping volley beginning with his back to goal had even the battle-hardened Wong Tian Han
It was always going to be hard coming back from that, with Arcturules having developed the skill of defending a lead into a fine art. Still, a younger Birds side might have prevailed through sheer bloody-minded stubborn running, but as it was, they were not able to push the pace sufficiently to trouble the hosts. Yuta Nakakita had a comparatively quiet outing in central defence, but then it wasn't as if Grilled's strikeforce were exactly calling out for attention.
This was never going to get better, and Arcturules comfortably dominated the second half against an increasingly-spent Birds team. It was perhaps telling that Grilled's best incursions came through Lee Lee Hao
, who has spent his career an orthodox midfielder - Tian Yonghang
's flesh was not quite up to carrying out his will, and Mohd Safri was beginning to almost look bullied by Nakakita.
Only luck kept Grilled in with a shot, as the home side began finding glaring holes in their organization. Fuso should have gotten it in after a delightful layoff by Skutecki in the 57th, and only Gene Filippone
's calculated tug prevented Kapecki from going clear in the 66th. Even then, Wong Tian Han
had to be light on his feet, to fist away Canuto Almofrei's deceptively-bouncing strike from distance.
The most optimistic among the travelling fans might have seen Grilled surviving this spate of attacks as a promising sign, especially after they somehow escaped a formidable counterattack through the middle, as Tay Jun Nie conspired to place it wide despite Wong being forced to ground. Ang Leong Kum
could have made something happen immediately after that, but it was Huang Ah Yeng's turn to sacrifice for the greater good, as he gave up a booking to stop the free-kick from meshing with Lee Lee Hao
's unguarded run.
And it proved to be the death knell for the Birds' disappearing hopes, as Arcturules broke from the retaken kick. Tay sped in front of Tian to intercept it, and after Kapecki cut a sweeping swathe down the left with Yuki Irie
barely keeping pace, Hong Yi Soon arrived with an immaculate sense of timing to notch a second against Grilled in as many meetings.
There was to be no recovery from that, and all Grilled's supporters could supply was a warm reception for Lee Lee Hao
as he came off right before the final whistle.