Tan Takes Over
In a game that neither side initially appeared eager to win, Mia San Toa Payoh eventually prevailed in unseemingly relaxed fashion. The Birds were all at sea for long stretches as they did little to press their slight possession advantage, and despite Jerry Lim's absence, Tan Tong Leong and Kong Chun Kwang proved more than what Grilled could handle.
New Mia San in-charge Gersão Pereira Correia proved more than willing to experiment with his tactics, and his choice this day would be a deep-lying 4-4-2. While not exactly what Mia San had been known for, they could field a respectable back four when they wanted, and with Ma Xiuxian and Joonas Riihiniemi sitting deep too, it was evident that they were out to preserve resources foremost, and win if they could.
That didn't do much for making the contest watchable, what with the Birds having rested both their natural wingers into the bargain. This made for an extremely congested centre of the pitch, and it was not until the thirtieth minute that Islom Davlatov
raised eyebrows by scooting past two men on the left. Eleazar Morgado knew what was coming, though, and the sharp counter saw Ma get on the end of a pinpoint fifty-yard punt from Morgado... only to skew it narrowly wide.
This roused Moey Xin Seng
into action, but his energetic off-the-ball run was let down by a completely miscued volley. It was back and forth now, with Tan Tong Leong pinging a classy lob off the angle of post and bar. Five minutes on, Chan Ze Han
brought Moey's powered cross down with his left, while spinning past Riihiniemi like a ballet dancer; sadly, his shot would be forced aside.
's strife with referees continued, as he cynically stuck a foot out for Kong Chun Kwang's trailing leg, as the national forward steamed towards goal. It was only great good fortune that he avoided giving up a penalty as well, and Oleg Usik nearly dropped the free-kick into the net in any case. Half-time couldn't come quickly enough for Hovaness Noubaryan
, who definitely didn't like what he was watching.
Moey didn't reappear for the second half, having been replaced by Chu Xin Lee
, and he clearly wasn't pleased as he took up a spot behind the dugout in the stands. He would have good reason for it too, as Chu found himself caught in no man's land when Oleg Usik advanced down his flank. Kong was left with Hoàng Trung Quá
to beat, and he did so with a deft drop of a shoulder, before giving Mia San Toa Payoh the lead after skipping past Massoud Dob
Grilled's attempt to make up for it only led to worse. Chan Ze Han
recognized that something had to happen, and soon, and did well enough to open a route for Mudaliar to attack. Hoàng sprinted forward in support, but his opportunistic run was crudely blocked off by Azrinuddin bin Hj Erywan. Several Birds players immediately shouted for a penalty, but Mia San played to the whistle, and Morgado would have it in Dob's net within twenty seconds.
There was still nothing doing when Kalki Parvathaneni
- so deadly in recent weeks - threw himself at Davlatov's ball to the near post on Grilled's next movement, and Mia San would nearly produce a carbon copy of their previous breakaway goal. Only a last-ditch stretch by Gilbert Webb
kept Tan Tong Leong from going clear, and the resulting free-kick was smashed against the bar by Usik with Dob well beaten.
Chu Xin Lee
got off what was perhaps Grilled's best strike in the 63rd minute, but Gheorghe-Daniel Stanoiev was equal to it with a fingertip save. Usik would then ultimately succeed from open play, with several Birds players incomprehensibly backing off him. Still, there wasn't that large of a target to hit, but the Russian winger managed it, by putting liberal curve on his shot.
The Birds had more or less given up the ghost by now, even if Kalki continued to press for a consolation, coming closest with his low drive in the 74th that scraped the post. Nothing doing, though, and Mia San would breeze through to the fifth round of the Singapore Cup for the first time in their fifteen season-long history.