Birds Bow Out
In a finale that had little going for it but pride, United Legends FC fought back from a 1-2 deficit, to become 4-2 winners going into their relegation qualifier. For Grilled, whose fate had long been set, the defeat was perhaps best taken as a reminder of just how much better they would have to become, to count themselves amongst the true cream of Singapore's crop.
The Birds would not have much to be sorry for, actually, and the near-even odds accurately reflected Legends' sorry form entering today - not only had they lost their previous three league fixtures, they hadn't even managed to score against any of Arrogancae, Sarcastic Fringeheads and Haha. Understandably under heavy fire, head coach Michele Antonelli would return to a 3-5-2, with their midfield all but picking itself no thanks to the possibly career-ending foot injury to Jimmie McNutt, suffered against the Fringeheads.
For Grilled, Moey Xin Seng
was immediately restored to the frontline, captain's armband intact, and he would flank Islom Davlatov
together with Chan Ze Han
in a finely-wrought attacking mechanism. The stadium would only have a single glimpse of their convoluted interpassing before the hosts broke it up with strong active pressing, though, and it would be former Bulgarian youth international Valentin Chakúrov who would take over. While some doubted his proficiency at central pivot, his hidden steel soon unveiled himself, and a near-goal from a header in the ninth minute would be followed by the real deal in the 13th.
The Birds took all of two minutes to get their own back, with Davlatov not trying overly hard to stay on his feet, when Juan Luis San Sebastián inserted himself in the way of his dribble. Objectively, it wasn't that bad a decision from the Spanish centreback, given that the foul was committed some distance outside the box, and to the side to boot. Cyril Künzler
would make him regret it, however, as he buried the free-kick in just about the only spot that Iron Armijo couldn't reach.
It was turning into a very open celebration of football, and Vlad Makarin's stinger onto the crossbar in the 24th would transform into a free run down the right for Künzler - something he wouldn't get often, given Legends' preference for pace out wide. Fullback Franklin Battle would do well to beat Moey in the air, but the clearence didn't go very far, and Bilal Mohammad Harun
would thrash it home with barely-repressed fury.
Noubaryan would switch Kalki Parvathaneni
and Bhavya Panigrahi
on at half-time, in something of a lull period, as the home team re-approached the match in a cautious manner after falling behind. They were leaving the advancing wholly to their fullbacks now, with Laurent Goucher and Ivan Mudrinić all but squeezed into the centre, and Grilled were unable to find a way through; Kalki sent some pulses racing with his all-out sprint in the 70th, but Battle proved more than able to catch up.
Legends then burst forth in numbers, and Grilled were found entirely wanting, having not had to contend with any real attempt for the past half-hour. Monty Warren took the shortest route as he dodged several lackadaisical moves to stand in his way, and Mudrinić supplied the finish, as he snuck in behind Gilbert Webb
with help from Alderney Tavares Jr.
The Birds then found themselves behind once more in short order, after Makarin took a tumble on what looked like a legal challenge from Chu Xin Lee
. The replays didn't show much more, what with the best view getting blocked by referee Søren Stenild himself, who stuck with his penalty decision. Laurent Goucher planted it convincingly past Massoud Dob
, and Franklin Battle then made sure of Legends' victory with an entry from the left.