Grilled Birds ousted Arcturules in the first Cup meeting between the two, which would also be their first win in four games against the East Coast stalwarts. Amongst Grilled's starters, only Moey Xin Seng
and Neeraj Muthyala
had been involved in the 1-3 defeat eight seasons ago in II.1, that had been the clubs' latest encounter; for Arcturules, it was a whole new team and style, with Spanish head coach Juan Díez de Segura emphasizing the importance of stretching opponents vertically - a job entrusted to Serbian Number Nine Matija Gojković on this day.
Having picked up the Sapphire Challenger Cup - coincidentally now held by Grilled Birds - a while back, Arcturules were up for another, as their authoritative 4-0 whupping of Controlar in the last round showed. Two-goal Romanian forward Alex Iftimie would be left out, however, as de Segura sought to provide team captain Abdulrab Al-Hussaini with an extra man to anchor midfield. Indeed, with a national-calibre goalkeeper in Victor Tang and a quality back four featuring former Singapore U-20 and newbies are newbies defender Brendan Pham, Arcturules had all the ingredients to catch the Birds on the break.
Moreover, Bilal Mohammad Harun
would be unavailable with complications to his ankle, but Grilled would be buttressed by Bhavya Panigrahi
making his debut beside Gilbert Webb
in defence. Jack-of-all-trades Bernie Egan
appeared at right forward with Vikram Mudaliar
kept in reserve, and his erratic movement contributed to the game's first true chance, in the tenth minute. Pham had to hurry over to stand beside Loo Chee Chi, who was being overwhelmed from the left. This left a big gap for Islom Davlatov
, but the Uzbek failed to test Tang with his terrible effort.
The Birds would have their own moments of nervousness, with a notable one in the 22nd minute, as Al-Hussaini looked to receive a pass and turn past Bhavya Panigrahi
, just over the halfway line. Mindful of how high they were playing, Panigrahi would take no chances, and took the Arcturules skipper down without a second thought. This resulted in an immediate caution by Spanish referee Adrián Villar, but one that was well taken.
Arcturules were finding it hard to settle in, what with Grilled pushing from all directions, and Davlatov would make up for his earlier miss in the 32nd minute, again bombing up from deep to send a low banger whistling past Tang. It was two-nil barely three minutes on, with Kalki Parvathaneni
firing from afar - not one of his recognized strengths. Victor Tang had his eye on it, but the ball took a final awkward low bounce, and slipped past the line to horror from the Arcturules set.
Chan Ze Han
further upped the score to three with a graceful volley on Moey Xin Seng
's through pass, and the two team leaders were quick to embrace, to unbridled delight from the Grilled supporters. On the other side, Al-Hussaini would exhort his teammates to keep their heads up, but it wasn't having much of an impact. It could even have been four, but Tang boosted himself with a good save off Panigrahi's penalty.
Arcturules were recharged after their half-time talking-to, and fears that this could become an ugly blowout were eased, as they pulled one back in the 51st. The pace was electric down the flanks, with both teams having speedy players out wide, but Miroslav Schaden would still manage to distinguish himself with his sprint down the right. Nevertheless, there seemed little enough danger with the Birds having the numbers, but Cheah Chang Ming managed an impressive takedown on his head, before swishing it past Massoud Dob
from up close.
Grilled weren't doing badly either, and they had opportunity enough to extend their lead. Cyril Künzler
jumped over a free-kick in the 68th minute, leaving it for Bhavya Panigrahi
to take, and the strike was indeed powerful and on-point. Victor Tang was equal to it, though, and it would instead be Arcturules who would score from the following sequence of play. Gilbert Webb
tried to play it safe by conceding the corner, only to have ex-Amicitia Maritimo United man Pierre Foo climb above Egan, to head it home.
was getting concerned, from how he had Vikram Mudaliar
jogging even before that second goal, even if he waited to send the striker on. In the meantime, the Birds sought to stabilize the match with slower, more controlling play, and even managed to set Chan Ze Han
up for a lob in the 77th minute, an attempt that dropped just over the crossbar. Noubaryan wouldn't be waiting much longer, and had Bernie Egan
come off for Mudaliar then.
It was unclear whether the substitution was the correct one, given the sudden burst by Arcturules that followed, and Florus Romijn
would have little choice but to trip Iisakki Arpiainen and take the yellow card, shortly afterwards. And then, it paid off. There was no stopping a Mudaliar in full flight the honest way, and Loo Chee Chi's desperate tackle would have him falling a shade over the penalty area boundary. The Arcturules players were aghast when Villar awarded a second spot kick, and Bhavya Panigrahi
couldn't miss this time.
The discontent, already simmering with some of the Arcturules players, would finally boil over, and captain Abdulrab Al-Hussaini vented with a blindside knockdown on Moey Xin Seng
that very nearly sparked a confrontation. There was a flicker of confusion as the two captains squared up, before cooler heads prevailed and they were dragged apart, with Al-Hussaini getting away with a yellow.
Controversy would continue piling up, as Cheah Chang Ming abruptly went to ground clutching his calf, apparently a suddent onset of cramp. Grilled refused to stop play, not that they were under any obligation to, and really rubbed it in with a chip by Gilbert Webb
for 5-2. There would be nothing accidental about Iisakki Arpiainen's stomp at Neeraj Muthyala
's feet after the restart, and the referee inexplicably refused to take the red card out, despite Grilled's protestations; it was probably best that the match was called very soon after.