Kandang Harimau would be too much for Grilled Birds to handle, and Bot Team FC bounced right back from their upset to the Fringeheads, to rip the Birds a new one at home. Li Aik Beng had his men uncharacteristically operate on the counter at home, but as it turned out, this would be a strategic masterclass that secured a comfortable if unorthodox win for the league leaders.
If that last stumble had given the other S-League title chasers heart, there would be little more of that today, as Li flaunted the adaptability that had led his team to major national trophies the past two seasons. Against most expectations, they kept with the 5-3-2 that they had taken to The Cooking Pot, which implicitly invited Grilled to do their worst. For the Birds' part, Heng Dong Chu
would make his official debut at left wing, but it was clear that the star winger had not assimilated fully into Grilled's system.
There was hardly time for such introspection, though, and it was not as if there was all that much competition for Heng's spot on the left in any case. Bot Team FC weren't pulling any tricks either - not that they needed to, given their pure strength in footballing terms. Li had fashioned a team that could execute several key tactics at the highest levels with next to no obvious weaknesses, and this was what Grilled would have to contend with.
They had, moreover, learnt their lesson from that earlier draw with Grilled, and there was rather less space available to Grilled's forwards from the get-go, with Alexander Minarovský shining in a libero-type role. This was crushingly if boringly effective, particularly with the Birds missing Chan Ze Han
's brillance, and the home support was educated enough not to begrudge the relative lack of excitement.
Their faith would be repaid soon enough, upon a diagonal pass out to Óscar Antonio Cepeda on the left. Heng had evidently not taken to marking, and although Neeraj Muthyala
more or less anticipated this, he was unable to get across quickly enough to deny Cepeda time to pick out his target. Oleg Konaev knew exactly what he had to do, which was to outpace Yuta Nakakita
over a critical seven or eight yards, and he rolled by to score with a clockwork precision.
It was one shot, one goal for the hosts, who could be interpreted as taunting Grilled by not actively seeking to extend their lead. If this was a dangerous game to play, there were no signs that the Bots were wavering. The only temporary chink in their armour showed right before the interval, when Moey Xin Seng
fired a half-chance between Nicholas Phang's legs, but even that was more warning than true threat.
was the obvious antidote to Yuta's less-than-ideal pace, but he wouldn't be the solution either as Grilled struggled to make an impression in the second half too. Shooting wasn't the issue - Grilled had their fair share of tries already - but actually bothering Cristian Romete, was. Islom Davlatov
came perhaps the closest, when he shook former Slovenian youth international David Anžel off for long enough, to curl one towards the top corner in the 53rd minute. Against most keepers, it should have been enough, but Romete stretched near-impossibly to get his fingertips to that.
It was then mostly downhill for the Birds after that, as they then fell prey to another exquisitely-drafted Bot counterattack. Grilled's midfield had badly underestimated how comfortable Anžel could be on the ball, and allowed him to advance nearly to their penalty area unchecked. There were only too many plausible options for him then, and he went for the tee-back to Kong Kian Chee, who nearly burst the net with a right-footer that could only be described as venomous.
There was surely no way back for Grilled now, but as fate would have it, they would be gifted a sitter out of nowhere... only for a disbelieving Bilal Mohammad Harun
to watch the error unfold passively. Bilal would snap out of the spell after a surreal delay, but Romete had by then gotten the drop on him. A great escape for the hosts, and greater disappointment for Grilled's bench.
The third and final goal for Bot Team FC would arrive in the 73rd minute from national striker Stewart Russell, who had done everything but get his name on the scoreboard, in all fairness. Chu Xin Lee
would replace Vikram Mudaliar
, who had also worked his tail off, for the last ten minutes, but there would be nothing in it for him either.