The Birds got the better of Kim Tae Hee FC for the first time in four matches ahead of their Cup reunion with Mia San Toa Payoh, and it wasn't even close. As in their latest three wins, KTH FC kept with the counterattacking tack that had served them so well in this particular matchup, as new head coach Tan Hock Ping was eager to make full use of the squad's tactical flexibility. He would, unfortunately, find his team up against motivated specialists.
In-form forwards Rafał Chuchro and Mohd Irzani Mohd Ridhwan were dropped to the bench by Tan, as the visitors prepared to work on the counter; Bulgarian sweeper Ivan Zhekov took up the captaincy. For Grilled, it was just Plan A as always, although the constant rainfall at The Cooking Pot wasn't thought to be working in their favour.
It wasn't the best of conditions for a proper football game, and there wasn't much of that on show in the early going. Everyone seemed to be muddling about, until Florus Romijn
demonstrated what was yet possible, as he sprinted away on the left in the eleventh minute, drawing a first, magnificent, save from Paul Târlă. KTH FC found themselves also hampered in making ground, and it was Romijn who broke the deadlock in the 27th, preying upon a distracted Eliano Mantovani to poach one from very close up.
Tan Hock Ping seemed to be ruminating about whether to throw a striker on, but possibly encouraged by Kok Lee Kwang's nice run and strike after 32 minutes, decided to keep things as they were. The match came to life again towards the end of the half, with a couple of Islom Davlatov
efforts drawing gasps from the fans, with the visitors' Simon Grabmair getting a decent look at Massoud Dob
's goal too; in the end, however, it would be 2-0 with Bernie Egan
's routine shot slipping away from Târlă, in time added on.
Grilled were certainly fortunate with that, as it was impossible to imagine how a goalkeeper of Paul Târlă's calibre could have missed that under better weather conditions. Kim Tae Hee FC probably also realized that, as they became markedly freer with their attempts after returning. Following good saves from Egan and Chan Ze Han
, the visitors launched it long down the left, and Álvaro Velasco Miranda got through after Gilbert Webb
tried unsuccessfully to play him offside. Miranda struck it low, and had his reward as the ball skipped past Dob.
Sadly for KTH FC, the Birds would never quite let them back in again. Three minutes later, Romijn would again find himself in the unaccustomed position of striker, as he intercepted a missed clearance after a messy indirect free-kick. Quick feet and quicker thinking were perhaps the only traits valued in that situation, though, and Romijn definitely had both, as he instantly tapped it home for 3-1.
It was four in the very next minute, as Kalki Parvathaneni
was next to take advantage of an error from the new-dispirited visitors. Zhekov wasn't happy at all to see Choy Shun Keng not paying attention as he tried to release it upfield, and Egan's steal was duly played diagonally to Kalki. The Grilled Number 37 could have taken it then, but he instead elected to take Târlă on - and won.
With the win all but in the bag, Hovaness Noubaryan
rested Yuta Nakakita
for the next game, putting Hoàng Trung Quá
on for the last ten minutes. There wasn't much action in that time, what with the teams having accepted the outcome, and the freshly-capped Vikram Mudaliar
would be substituted out for José Luiz Velho
in the final minute of regular time, having had little to do in that period.
Unexpectedly, there would be one last roar from Grilled, as Gilbert Webb
saw the entire right side open up for him, after Romijn and company had drawn Kim Tae Hee FC's men well over to the left; the Scottish defender had no reason to hold back, and saw a second goal in as many games as his banger rippled the back of Târlă's net. Injury time however also saw Cyril Künzler
's vicious side, as he swiped at Miranda's legs with real intent, after losing the ball. Referee Tammo Redeker would have been well within his rights to send Künzler off there and then, but settled for the yellow card.