|Season 59||L||5 - 3||League|
|Season 59||W||5 - 1||League|
|Season 57||W||4 - 2||Tournament (Group Phase)|
|Season 56||L||2 - 1||Cup|
|Season 53||L||4 - 7||Tournament (Group Phase)|
All To The Fore
Islom Gets Serious
Joker 9B might not have lasted in II.2, but parent club and Geylang icons Joker 9 were another kettle of fish altogether. Having spent ten steady seasons in II.4 between short-lived S-League stints, the Jokers had last clashed with the Birds some twelve seasons ago, in the earlier of those S-League visits; they won 5-3, to over turn a 1-5 defeat earlier in the season, but the duo were relegated together anyway.
Unlike then, the teams are arguably on the up despite Joker 9's relegation, with the Jokers boasting of excellent new talent such as national striker hopeful 22 year-old Tay Tong Leong - no relation to Tan. Former Rancher Rabbits star Ho Ah Kian would line up besides Tay, and with another homegrown youth in Tan Cheng Yao, they certainly made a fresh-faced frontline to catch the imagination.
Hot young strikers were hardly the exclusive province of the Jokers, of course, as Grilled Birds welcomed Vikram Mudaliar
back. The undisputed king remained Tay's Young Lions contemporary Chan Ze Han
, who strode out at Aljunied Bridge as team captain. The Birds didn't have too much leadership to spare, what with Moey Xin Seng
and Neeraj Muthyala
unavailable with bad ankle injuries.
The home fans had not been treated well at all, with their only league points last term gained in a 4-5 away win at Bot Team FC, in the second week. This meant that the last league victory at the Bridge went all the way back to a 4-3 over Red Freaking Chillies more than a season ago, with former favourites Hanis Mohd Fadhli and Quincy Ton still present. Still, the faithful placed much hope in the returning Dane Kim to bring some fresh perspectives to their attacking buildup, from how they sung his name before kick-off.
It was a trust that couldn't be repaid, as Grilled gradually took over after a cagey start. It wasn't as if the teams didn't know that the first goal might be decisive, but having both deployed in a 2-5-3, it was safe to say that defence was nobody's priority. Bilal Mohammad Harun
got on the end of a wonderful chance in the 22nd minute, elegantly taking the ball past Gert-Jan van Boshuizen with a heel-flick first touch, but couldn't get the angle right.
That only emboldened the visitors, and van Boshuizen would get many more opportunities to involve himself, before tha half was done. First up was a pair of chances in the 30th minute or so, beginning with Chan Ze Han
ripping Tobias Wurzinger with a silky stepover fake, only to sidefoot it just wide. Bernie Egan
would be right back at the Jokers' necks with a raging dash; van Boshuizen would somehow hold on to the dipping shot - and take his time before restarting the game.
It was a wise move given how Joker 9 were getting overwhelmed, but it only delayed what was going to happen. van Boshuizen was getting worked hard by Chan, who got another top reflex save out of him in the 33rd. Unfortunately for the hosts, a botched clearance saw Grilled with a free-kick right on the edge of the box, and there was nothing any keeper in the world could have done about Cyril Künzler
's strike through the wall.
There would be an unlikely Birds scorer two minutes after that. Gilbert Webb
hadn't even really been expected to start, which was perhaps why nobody had been watching him, as Florus Romijn
built the play up the left side. Liew Hao Jun was left without support, and decided to step back against Webb - a bad idea, as the Scotsman simply curled it in at the far end of goal.
This was not how the home set had wanted things to go, and spurred on by their defiance, Joker 9 created their first big chance, coming from the right wing. A simple but exceedingly effective one-two between Tan Cheng Yao and Luo Haixiang saw the Chinese wingman advance on Massoud Dob
unhindered, after an indecisive challenge from Yuta Nakakita
. Luo looked certain to reduce the deficit, but Dob threw a leg up to send the ball careening across the face of goal instead.
Two-nil it was at the break, then, an outcome that the hosts could barely hide their disdain for. They came out for the second half filled with the fire that had gotten them to the top division, and Grilled's backline was absolutely busted by Tan's exchanges with Ho in the 49th minute. Tobias Wurzinger could have completely turned it around two minutes later, as the Birds stared at a possible penalty and red card, from Webb's last-ditch sliding tackle. Referee Tom Graf zu Rantzau didn't make many friends in Geylang, when he judged that Wurzinger had gone down too easily.
It was in retrospect the best opportunity the Jokers had to retake the initiative, as Islom Davlatov
more or less seized it after that. Davlatov had adapted well to a deeper role after early grumblings, and his ample experience as an out-and-out forward put him in good stead, whenever he interchanged with Mudaliar. Joker 9 skipper Chow Puay Hui did all that he could have been expected to in the 63rd, but Davlatov's deadly instincts saw him pot it in off the post, despite surely having his vision blocked.
Nine minutes later, it would be the Dav again, as he thundered in on the right side of the penalty area this time, to lift a volleyed cannonball over van Boshuizen. Florus Romijn
got too carried away in the aftermath, as he booted the ball into the stands, after van Boshuizen had tossed it out of his net. Romijn would get booked for that, and was additionally nowhere to be found when Kalki Parvathaneni
made a very promising run down his flank on the restart.
Grilled could afford some laxness with a three-goal advantage, that said, even if Joker 9 warned them not to take it too easy, as Tobias Wurzinger further cut their lead down to two with a fine take in the 82nd. This was about as far as it got for the home team, with Hovaness Noubaryan
employing all his available substitutions to help the Birds over the line.