Dethroned At The Pot
Chan's The Charm
The Birds' upward trajectory continued, as they wrested their third S-League victory in four tries, and scuppered KingofNoobs United's title dreams at a fell swoop. Chan Ze Han
stepped in for suspended skipper Moey Xin Seng
missing nary a beat, and endured what must have been among the most comprehensive display by a Grilled forward without scoring, in the second half.
This was a KingofNoobs team which, recall, had just taken Arrogancae down a peg, and held league leaders Bot Team FC to a draw at their Kandang Harimau. They would line up much the same as they had against Arrogancae, with the glaring omission of usual left winger Trần Nhất Vĩ, who had sustained a bad knee injury on international duty with Vietnam against Azerbaijan; 36 year-old German reserve Archibald Auner started in his place. Hafith Abdulbary Al-Shanfary would operate in a slightly more advanced sweeper role, in accordance with Marco Bastilani's stressing of the importance of maintaining possession at The Cooking Pot.
These adjustments wouldn't have the desired effect, as it happened. Pundits had noted Grilled's raw ferocity once immersed in their natural, intense fast-exchange style, and to the visitors' detriment, they took almost no time in getting off the ground. Even despite Moey sitting this out, the competition for places was so stiff that Kalki and Egan had to watch from the sidelines, but this was probably justified from how smoothly Vikram Mudaliar
sliced his way inside, in the ninth minute. Former Azzurri
star Alessandro Guevara was on Mudaliar as he pulled up, only for him to knock it sideways, for Chan Ze Han
to bend it up and over Finn Coleman.
A startling opener for a delightful day, and all the signs were that this match was going to proceed very differently from the Birds' miserable 1-5 whipping in Sentosa, already. It was, indeed, KingofNoobs that were desperate to adapt today, but they had no real response to Grilled's direct assault, despite wisely playing Ömer Budak and Marian Pawełczuk relatively narrow. That likely helped Cyril Künzler
come into space on the right, on second thought, and the Polish wingman found the net with a mighty right-footer through traffic.
Replays suggested that the shot had taken a very slight deflection off Bilal Mohammad Harun
then, but there would be no appeal from the midfielder. Grilled kept on pressing as a unit, and they would be three up by the 23rd minute, as Gilbert Webb
fought his way to a header, from all of five feet out. Xerardo Rivadeneira tried to maintain some semblance of control, but it was frankly out of his team's hands by now, and it was only fortune that kept Chu Xin Lee
from extending the lead further, with his flashy drive in the 30th.
Bastilani's recourse, drummed in during the break, was a fully-defensive outlook reminiscent of their trip to the Bots, and it did work rather better for them. So well, in fact, that they managed to pull a goal back in the 58th minute, as a misplaced pass by Grilled's midfield was picked up by national playmaker Ang Keng Jing. Budak offered himself for Baltazár Pivovarský's assist with an enterprising sprint, and the Slovakian forward took him up on it.
Künzler would have a nice flicker header tipped over by Coleman as the Birds rallied, which was followed by acting skipper Yuta Nakakita
handing the armband over to Chan Za Han, as he left together with Davlatov in a double substitution.
Thus began one of the most incredible solo performances by Chan thus far, as he made full use of the fresh legs that Panigrahi and Egan brought to the contest. KingofNoobs United's defence had never been comfortable before this, and they would be absolutely rattled, as the newcomers led a new wave of onslaughts. Barely seven minutes after their arrival, Egan would occupy Pawełczuk and leave Chan open for a stinging strike. Only a top-drawer double save from Coleman prevent KingofNoobs from falling behind then, as he blocked the first shot, before somehow recovering to also save Chu Xin Lee
would also join in the fray, replacing Mudaliar in the 75th, this after Chan had again sent Grilled hearts racing with a wonderful curveball that shaved the crossbar. Kalki had no sooner taken up his post, when Chan figuratively broke the ankles of fellow captain Rivadeneira, with an entirely-convincing double feint. Chan would miss by inches once more, to the great dismay of the home crowd, who however did not let it keep them from a deserved standing ovation.