The Moey Of Old
Grilled's perfect start to the league extended to six games, as Moey Xin Seng
scored twice in a match for the first time in fifty-five outings. Though this might partly have to do with his dropping back into a midfield role, it remained a nagging reminder of Moey's slump - and one that he was pleased to put behind him.
This would also be the twentieth competitive fixture between the Birds and Chemistry, a series that the two-time S-League winners had generally gotten the better of; indeed, the last meeting between the teams from eight seasons ago in II.1 had been a five-nil wipeout, one that a 19 year-old captain Moey had been helpless to stem, with only a fading Tian Yonghang
by his side. Today, a prime Neeraj Muthyala
and Yuta Nakakita
would once more start alongside Moey, with Kalki Parvathaneni
no longer a benchwarmer, but a key starter.
They would be greeted by the evergreen Tommaso Petretta, 38 year-old Italian goalkeeper into his sixteenth season with Chemistry, and who would be facing Grilled a fourth time. Moey's equivalent for them would be captain-turned-coach Vincenzo Ornaghi at fullback, together with the impressively-named Lee Kuan Yew in defence. Estonian winger Anton Veiderma would attack down the right, ahead of Ornaghi.
There was no getting around the fact that Chemistry's squad was ageing, despite their promotion from the third division - only two of their number were below thirty: central midfielder Lau Jing Keong, and reserve striker Leonard He, whom had usually been recognized as a cut below his teammates. Still, sheer familiarity had allowed them to punch at their old level at times, such as when they had eliminated ~Pollen~ from the Sapphire Challenger Cup on Wednesday. This had cost them Erik Dao, however, who had his ribs busted in the process of scoring in extra time.
Overall, the Birds had the wherewithal to ask some very hard questions of the Chemistry defence, which soon had Gerald Leung and Poh Kim Hock sitting deep. Experience alone wouldn't be enough as Grilled's attackers had running to spare, and national forward Vikram Mudaliar
had ball to feet just outside the penalty area, in the tenth minute. Nobody picked up Moey Xin Seng
as he searched for space, and all that was left was to peg it hard, once Mudaliar's pass came.
Petretta would be found wanting again in the 20th minute, when Moey simply unleashed a cracker from twenty-odd yards, for the milestone fiftieth goal of his Grilled career. Chemistry would improve, and Gerald Leung's stylish drive down the left would only just be warded off by Gilbert Webb
's awkward lunge. They would pull one back before half-time, with Leonard He silencing his critics with a delightful first touch and finish.
Chemistry tried to get back into the business with some creative lumping it up from the restart, but Yuta Nakakita
wouldn't be drawn, and stayed on Dethleff Kiev. Having absorbed that barrage comfortably, Grilled's superior conditioning began to tell; Lee Kuan Yew couldn't catch Chan Ze Han
after the Birds skipper doubled up on the right, and Chan was coolly efficient as usual - 3-1 to the Birds.
Two minutes after Chan's goal, Kalki Parvathaneni
would also get in on the act, with Chemistry's composure failing them under heavy pressing from the top. Petretta tried to play his way out of danger by redirecting a backpass to the seemingly-free Leung, but he hadn't counted on the playmaker getting caught napping by Muthyala. There was a mad scramble towards goal by all present, but Kalki came away with the ball eventually, and put the three points beyond doubt.
It seemed to be a question of how many as Vikram Mudaliar
found the goalpost, after ripping former Czech youth international Marcel Molinek a new one. Poh Kim Hock would ride to Chemistry's rescue here, as he enforced calm, if not offensive verve, in his comrades. Dethleff Kiev would continue gambling on getting a headstart on Grilled's creeping high line, but there was nothing doing, particularly after Hoàng Trung Quá
's entry for Yuta Nakakita
in the 80th minute. Hoàng had energy to burn, and he spent it well.
There would be a final act for those that stayed till the final whistle - José Luiz Velho
's substitution in the last minute would be followed by a bad slip and botched recovery by Cyril Künzler
in his own area, which was ruled a penalty for the hosts. Anton Veiderma smashed it wide, however, and Chemistry were nearly further embarassed, as Islom Davlatov
took off. Fortunately for them, he didn't get it on target either.