Purmei Inc. got into the Halloween theme, frightening Grilled's remaining diehards badly by running up a two-goal lead in just fifteen minutes. The Birds wouldn't give up the ghost like a solo camper in a bad horror flick, though, and they would scrape their way back, before really turning it on in the final ten minutes.
This would be Grilled's first-ever meeting with the III.12 regulars, who are into their fifteenth straight season in that league. They had not been doing too badly over the past few weeks either, as they entered the match on a four-game winning streak - the last of which saw German winger Mark-Stephan Grimmelshausen pull off a spectacular hat-trick against Red Chaos.
Grilled had kept their best midfielders back for just this, however, but Gennady Dvorak
's absence after failing a late fitness test did leave them short up top. Moey Xin Seng
would return to the left side, after serving out his suspension, while Hoàng Trung Quá
got the nod ahead of Yuki Irie
When it came down to it, the Birds probably took this one more seriously than their opponents, who went as far as to leave former national midfielder Mohammad Zainal Walid as well as rising star Chia Li Chang both off the bench. Then again, neither were particularly missed initially, as youngster Khairul Asmawi Khairil played his socks out for his club.
There was no matching Khairul's industry right then, and Grilled were pressed to find answers that they didn't quite have. For all the possession they were getting, it was Purmei that were doing much more than they had, and Grimmelshausen would moreover carry his scintillating form over. Twelve minutes in, the German schooled Moey in the art of practised deception, and drilled in a low cross that Vladimír Možíš turned into the net on cue.
The nightmare would continue, as Grilled gave another one up all too easily, barely three minutes later. French lone striker Benoît Bulteau held it up waiting for help to arrive, and nobody picked up on José David Palacio's rather obvious run down the middle. Palacio himself seemed taken aback for a moment when he found that it actually worked, but recovered quickly to fire past a stranded Valentin Batâr
It was looking extremely bad for the Birds right now, and thankfully they had their loyal captain to haul them out of this funk. Tian Yonghang
, starting his 350th competitive match - just one off Mohd Safri's club record - would get the rescue off the ground, with his sly little cutback in the 21st. This was just enough to throw Bronisław Zatorski off his tail, and allow Tian to tie Mohd Safri's cup scoring record with a solid grounder raked in at the left corner.
It would get worse before it continued getting better, as Neeraj Muthyala
pulled a hamstring out of nowhere; Yuta Nakakita
made a fine enough replacement, though, and Grilled dominated the rest of the half. Unfortunately, the increasingly heavy downpour made movement difficult, and it was about all they could do, to set Hariharan Prabhu
in position to test Radu Petrovici in the 32nd minute.
Having protected their lead to the break, Purmei head coach Branislav Mladenović was clear about what they had to do. Especially given the by-now marshy ground, sticking out for the win appeared more than possible, and they would cluster themselves within their own territory in service of just that plan.
And they might well have gotten away with it, had Moey Xin Seng
not thrown Grilled a lifeline almost on the hour. Quite obviously still stinging from his part in Purmei's opener, the 19 year-old had been striving hard to make up for it since then, and his chance came with Gene Filippone
's swirling corner. Actually, Yuta Nakakita
got the first bite at that one, but was thrown slightly off by a defender. It therefore fell to Moey to apply the finishing nod.
Now back level, the Birds would drop their intensity in their relief, and nearly let Purmei back into it. The hardworking Palacio was sniffing about as usual, and would threaten Hoàng quite a number of times, with his determined runs down the left. It was only the combination of gritty defending and some luck that Grilled got through this period unscathed.
Ironically, for how much Tian had contributed during his time on the pitch, it would be his departure that would serve as the catalyst for Grilled's explosion. It was tougher to tell the extent to which his substitute Leong Wan Kang
was responsible, and it could perhaps be fairest to pin it on Purmei's collective stamina finally running out.
In any case, the deadlock would be broken by Gene Filippone
. Having taken over free-kick duties due to Dvorak's absence, the veteran Swiss centreback would send a knuckleball straight over the wall, and towards Petrovici; this seemed a straightforward enough take, but it would veer wildly away from the frantic goalie at the last instant. Filippone surely hadn't meant that, but that didn't stop him from taking full credit regardless.
Purmei didn't quite have the stomach to recover from this late setback, and their resolve would be completely shattered, as Grilled saw blood. Mohammad Ramli Saliman
, mostly quiet up till now, would tear right through straight after that for 4-2. The dust had barely settled, when the fresh-legged Leong made his presence felt, with a high-energy leap and mid-air kick, that beat Petrovici more due to the shock factor as anything.
It was Purmei's turn to hit bottom, as they lost Palacio to a twisted ankle, as the Colombian tried desperately to kickstart an unlikely rally. Their misery would then be completed when Saliman got a second from newcomer Tonico Filho's questionable backpass, but only because Moey hammered it into the post on the next attack.