With Grilled back in their first Challenger Cup semis since their winning run in the Ruby edition nine seasons ago, their supporters could hardly be muted. It was moreover a first for nearly the entire squad, of whom only Yuki Irie
and Tian Yonghang
can be said to have experienced those highs as regulars.
They find themselves up against II.4 club Dragon Devil's for the first time ever, which Moey Xin Seng
held to be about as favourable a matchup for the Birds as they could expect at this stage. The Devil's finished regulation time level with Between a Walk and a Hard Pace at one apiece, but came alive thereafter, routing Between with three goals in extra time.
"They're a strong side who like to come out and play - just like us." Moey remarked. "Chong Puay Jun is a playmaker we all have to respect, but I can't say there's any reason for us to fear. If we command the midfield, I say we win it."
The other Sapphire Challenger Cup semis will see Puh erh, who upset S-League favourites Oneteamtoplay, face another II.4 hopeful in Yew Tea. Oneteamtoplay will now have to wait to complete their Challenger Cup collection, while Yew Tea are a step closer to their first national-level silverware... if possibly without hat-trick man Pompeo Cusaro.
Farmer Bunnies are also in another semifinals, after they beat Phantasm Hotspurs 2-0 in what Sikong Darong
described as an "ideal counterattacking display
". Kwek Yun Jie
snapped up a direct clearance perfectly in the 58th minute, and Vishnu Tallapaka
would secure passage as Hotspurs were forced to pile on the risks.
Sikong took pains to recognize Brendan Leung
for minimizing Goh How Jing's threat, and urged the team to keep their concentration against S-League opponents littlehorse - who are also out to take their third Challenger Cup. "We're just two wins away, and I daresay the first may be the harder. Our core players aren't getting any younger, and if they want to leave a tangible legacy, the time to begin is now."
Away in Sri Lanka, Grilled International schooled Division Four leaders FC Alvai by five goals to one, with 18 year-old Hardi bin Besar
responsible for two of those. Ragib Banović
is a doubt for Friday's league match against Schorschl, however, thanks to a minor calf injury.