Moey Lays It On
Grilled avenged their Singapore Cup loss to BuddyBoys as pledged, but the 4-2 win perhaps raised as many questions as it answered. For all of the Birds' bluster, there wasn't actually that much changing-up of the personnel, with Chu Xin Lee
up top for the injured Neeraj Muthyala
probably the most high-profile switch. Bhavya Panigrahi
would start in defence alongside Gilbert Webb
, though, which suggested that Hovaness Noubaryan
had identified Grilled's inadequacies in that respect as having cost them previously.
An emboldened BuddyBoys moved from their 5-3-2 then to a 3-5-2, perhaps encouraged by their passive 1-3 loss to Borussia Singapore Club in that formation over the weekend. S$9.8 million Omani Number Ten Abdulbaqy Zakariya Al-Mazrooy would lead the line with Matthew MacCleary this time, as Joshua Mutumba was rested. Normunds Uškāns' vision of a total-football type interchangeability would be on full display, if modified by Tom Schulte-Holthaus' and Kia Sheykhlari's reliable pace out wide.
It was Grilled who looked like they would have to eat their words, after a fairly active start. After a fourth minute burst from the right by Bernie Egan
, and Panigrahi's free-kick off the woodwork, BuddyBoys took the lead as they played it through the middle. Röbi Dusen managed to carry the ball a ridiculous distance by himself, and Fabrizio De Pauli arrived to hammer a powerful effort low past Massoud Dob
The Birds at least didn't dwell on another spate of lax pressing, and came out with all guns blazing. Being dropped from the national squad seemed to have given Vikram Mudaliar
a kick up the backside, and this was reflected in his incredible workrate through this period. He would bring Moey Xin Seng
and Chu Xin Lee
into his swashbuckling 19th minute run with some sweet touch-ons, and closed the move with an excellently-placed grounder beyond Alonso Espinoza's reach.
Grilled then went ahead just four minutes later, after a contentious decision by referee Giovanni Maria Fumi not to award a penalty for Chan Ze Han
's fall in the box, as the forward strove to dodge around Espinoza. BuddyBoys were only too eager to put the incident behind them, with Dan Şişcu instinctively fouling Moey outside the penalty area as a further distraction. They didn't count on Grilled's latest ruse, however, which had Panigrahi fake a direct take, only for Chan to loft it in. Bilal Mohammad Harun
couldn't produce a clean header, but there came Islom Davlatov
to scrap it home.
BuddyBoys effectively fell back to a back five at that, with their wingers lying deep, which stalemated the match for a long time. Half-time came and went, and the Grilled bench became increasingly uneasy as the minutes dragged on, perhaps recognizing something. Their fears would be realized as BuddyBoys played possum excellently, and equalized in the 61st with Kia Sheykhlari assisting Abdulbaqy from the right side.
The worries only compounded as BuddyBoys started to really tear at Grilled's defence, and this danger would only gradually pass, as the midfield compensated by keeping to safe passes for a long stretch. It would eventually be sheer, pure, leadership that would drag the Birds out of their funk, as Moey Xin Seng
first tracked back to dispossess Ladislav Šablatúra, before escaping a couple of challenges to slide it through for Chan Ze Han
, who had understood Moey's intent. De Pauli hadn't been fooled and stayed on his man, but Chan had enough strength to hold him off and make it 3-2.
Much tension remained as BuddyBoys remained a credible threat to tie it up again, what with former Scottish international MacCleary beginning to overwhelm countryman Gilbert Webb
, especially in the air. This wasn't helped by Grilled's continued failures at shutting the door, with Chu Xin Lee
swanning through before narrowly missing in the 73rd. Bilal Mohammad Harun
went one better, coming up with an unsighted lob under close guard after 80 minutes, only to see it clip the crossbar.
Bilal would however put the match to rest soon afterwards, as he finally made the most of his advanced position, to elbow his way inside and score with his patented straight-on kick. A satisfied-seeming Islom Davlatov
would go off for Yuta Nakakita
with a minute remaining, with Panigrahi shifting to the abandoned left wing to make way for the veteran centreback.