The final score suggested that Singapore Big Dogs were either not what they once were, or that Grilled Birds had improved much more, since the teams' hard-fought Singapore Cup tie four seasons ago that barely went 3-2 for the Birds. It was probably more of the latter, as Dogs player-coach Teng Jian Wai chose to blood teenaged Eastern Highway Snakes youth graduates Tan Long Rong and Edward Lock in midfield, which saw them expectedly overrun.
The clubs' fortunes had diverged somewhat since that previous Cup meeting, with Singapore Big Dogs going on to the semifinals of the Sapphire Challenger Cup, where they lost to eventual winners Haha; they did top II.4 to break into the S-League, but lasted only a season. Then-mainstays Chia Guang Wan, Janusz Niewczas and Quek Han Eng have since moved on to other roles in the game, though most would agree that they had been adequately replaced by their juniors such as Tay Ting Lee and current captain Alistair Xiao.
Grilled had mostly maintained their squad from then, with the only differences outside of defence being the injured Neeraj Muthyala
, and the rested Florus Romijn
. Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Bernie Egan
started in their stead, with the latter taking just sixteen minutes to put the Birds in front. It should rightly have been Chan Ze Han
then, as he literally stunned goalkeeper Wade Coley with a strike to the face - Egan would leave the sympathy for after he had placed the ball into the net.
Coley would be back on his feet after a short rest, but it was uncertain whether his dizzyness had cleared, when he allowed Bhavya Panigrahi
's curling free-kick past him with nary a look, scarce three minutes later. He wouldn't be too sharp in the 26th minute either, after fullback Dietrich Venzin's slip saw Moey Xin Seng
take advantage, and could probably have reached Moey's cross before Chan Ze Han
had he tried.
The Dogs were truly struggling now, and Teng apparently considered replacing the underwater Coley with Indonesian first-teamer and former U-20 international Wicaksana Mabenda, but evidently figured that it was too late to matter. Poor Coley would thus have to take ownership of the disaster by himself, and after looking like a deer in the headlights as Vikram Mudaliar
blasted one narrowly high, he would have to pick further goals from Davlatov and Egan out of his net before half-time.
The ending to the first half had been contentious, even without those strikes, as the more hot-headed elements of both teams laid into their opponents with relish. Moey Xin Seng
might have provoked it with his overdone celebrations after Islom Davlatov
put it in, and referee Bogdan Krzeszowiak's punishment of a yellow card did little to cool the Singapore Big Dogs down; winger Vinod Modi snapped dangerously at Chu Xin Lee
's heels once too often, and would be booked as well.
Grilled were happy to tone it down significantly once the match restarted, and it was the Dogs who controlled the first fifteen minutes or so of the second half. Tan and Lock had energy to burn, which compensated for their relative lack of savvy, and they got their moment when Bilal got bundled over in the 59th minute. No foul was called and the counter was on, and the 17 year-old Tan Long Rong drove it past Massoud Dob
with a naturalness that suggested his preferred position.
That goal fired Singapore Big Dogs right back up, but they were unable to capitalize properly, as Lock's eager chopping down of Chan Ze Han
in midfield killed most of that momentum with a long stoppage, with Chan only too happy to play it up. Tay Ting Lee would quickly join Lock in the referee's book, after delaying Mudaliar's free-kick too blatantly for his taste.
It would then fall for the Birds' defenders to pick up the scoring mantle, with Gilbert Webb
being the ultimate beneficiary once the match was finally resumed, as Grilled somehow passed their way into a cleared central defence. Bhavya Panigrahi
would then follow up, again from open play, with Bernie Egan
supplying the assist thanks to a superb crossfield lob over the top.
José Luiz Velho
came on for Bilal in the last minute with the outcome beyond all doubt, but the Dogs had one last attack left in them, Hudson Matsumoto impressively bringing it up from the rear. Realising that the referee was about to blow the whistle, Matsumoto had to shoot from a poor position, and Dob had the angle well-covered.