New signing Gennady Dvorak
took to the Singapore league briskly, claiming a brace against the famously tight Batok Earthquakes just days after joining up with the Birds. However, it would be the hosts' Nélson Pedro who would emerge victorious again, as he bettered last weekend's haul of two himself to make it a sweep by the Earthquakes, who in doing so took over from Grilled at the top of II.1.
Earthquakes had to be the where the smart money was, after they had proven so resilient against Grilled, and there were few indications that would change, for all Djan Bacelar
's bluster. Gennady Dvorak
caught the eye as he entered for the injured Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
, certainly, while Lee Lee Hao
's inclusion appeared calculated to spice up a previously insipid attack. Moey Xin Seng
however also kept his place, to the bewilderment of even his own admirers.
The home team righly saw little need to tinker with a winning system, and the Birds gave them little reason to regret that line of thinking. Chua Li Sze matched Dvorak well as the Argentine tried to capitalize on his unknown factor, and Grilled soon hung themselves. Yuki Irie
's back header seemed typical enough, but he hadn't counted on Pedro's inhuman reflexes, and the Mozambique master stuck a foot in to help it past Wong Tian Han
History was further relieved as the Earthquakes put themselves two up, before Tian Yonghang
replied; Nunzio Viscusi made the most of a bad day for Yuki, crossing him over to drill home in the 30th minute, before Rinor Isufi
broke the Earthquakes with a sharp turn and sprint. Tan Kong Lai nearly cut the hasty cross out, but there was enough left on it for Tian to get the requisite nick.
Dvorak then gave a first glimpse of his true abilities. After Lee Lee Hao
threatened an equaliser with a heavily deflected effort that Fausto Chiara had to scramble to get to, Tan did well to limit the damage to a free-kick from a wide position. With Wong Ping Shun
rested, Dvorak stepped up, and duly whipped it inches past the top corner, with Chiara frozen.
This turned out to be bad for Grilled, however, as they were countered on their next drive, with Moey Xin Seng
giving it away and Viscusi taking full advantage. It then became 4-1 before half-time, thanks to Silvano De Rogatis winging it down the right. Gene Filippone
was caught in the middle as the ball came in, and Pedro clipped it between Wong Tian Han
's legs with supreme impudence.
A three-goal cushion realistically had to be considered all but safe for the Earthquakes, who quite rationally set up to play on the counter for the second half. Lee Long Chi again made his customary entrance for Faziallah bin Othman as a tactical sub, as Dietmar Dunkel teased with a couple of adventurous potshots.
It was looking quite hopeless for the Birds, when they found themselves back in it, almost by accident. There appeared little danger when the Earthquakes' defence cleared up after Tian made a doomed incursion in the 56th minute, but Henri Larsen then inexplicably tried an ambitious pass forward, when his fellow defenders had spread themselves out to provide options. It came off the shadowing Rinor Isufi
, and Clark Won
sprang at it, sending a tremendous first-time strike sailing past Chiara.
The home support then became increasingly nervous, as Grilled continued chipping away at their previously-secure lead. Sitting back was beginning to take its toll, and Chua Li Sze was unprepared when Dvorak took him on, on the ground. Displaying unusually slick footwork for one so tall, Dvorak got himself the foot of space he needed with an abrupt stop, and bent a well-calibrated shot in for 4-3.
Nélson Pedro would eventually ride to his team's rescue, as the Earthquakes did little more than soak up the pressure for the next ten minutes. Grilled's mindset had not quite adjusted as they faced their first attack in some time, with Humberto Laportilla taking his time to find Pedro, who could do no wrong. It would be his ninth hat-trick of a long career, and his fourth with Batok.
Grilled were hardly out of it, though, and Dvorak again found the net within minutes. Juggling the ball off his chest and knees, he got safely away from goal, before swinging around and clipping it into the roof of Chiara's goal. The visiting fans clearly had adopted a new favourite today, going by the cacophony that ensued.
A draw definitely did not look at all out of the question, but the Earthquakes would close ranks effectively, and wait out a very useful win.