A Killing Joke
Joker 9 gained some measure of their own back with an enthralling 6-2 win over Grilled Birds at their Aljunied Bridge, their first victory against the Birds in some fifteen seasons, and this coming after three straight heavy defeats. Grilled's aura of indominatibility had been damaged after their midweek loss to FC Barca Singapore, and the toll that test had taken manifested clearly today.
For all of Grilled's vaunted depth, they would select an unchanged starting XI from the Barca match, if with some slight positioning adjustments, with the wingers still not getting a look in. Joker, for their part, probably had a slightly stronger side than that which lost 2-5 a month back, with 19 year-old wonderboy Yu Kong Han joining the attack. Hatem Saâda and Wu Seng An could probably also be considered upgrades over Dane Kim and Liew Hao Jun, who filled their posts in midfield and defence respectively then.
It was always going to be a completely open game, with both teams bent on keeping to their natural flowing style, and the heavy pitch wouldn't prove much of an impediment to that. The question of who would get the first blow in would be answered in the thirteenth minute, as Bernie Egan
abruptly let one loose, upon receiving a medium-paced bouncing pass down the right. The cameraman didn't see that coming, and Gert-Jan van Boshuizen didn't either, as the grounder homed into the far end of goal.
The hosts weren't about to let that go unanswered, and they definitely had the offensive firepower to spare. Buoyed by their fans, they launched a springboard assault down their right, and the pairing of Luo Haixiang and Desmond Anderson was too much for Grilled's defensive efforts to cope with. Anderson would skin Bhavya Panigrahi
in a straight race to deliver the coup de grace.
The game calmed a bit at that, and the next notable chance came in the 32nd minute, when Islom Davlatov
wriggled out under heavy guard; had he shot instantly, it might well have gone in, but as it was Gert-Jan van Boshuizen managed to throw himself on the ball. The Dutch goalie blocked well from Kalki Parvathaneni
a bit later, and former youth international winger Dimitri Bodde led the counter down the left, and Radomir Hołówka arrived for the finish.
It was only going to get worse for Grilled as Luo Hanxiang outjumped Gilbert Webb
to knock a corner kick down, right at the feet of Ho Ah Kian, who was far too good to pass up such an opportunity for 3-1. Vikram Mudaliar
would at least make it more of a contest as he ran Chow Puay Hui down much quicker than the defender had thought possible, before reducing with a cool sidefooted stroke.
There was no telling who might prevail at half-time, and Joker 9's one-goal lead was definitely far from safe, going by the evidence. Grilled's comparatively lackluster off-the-ball movement was telling, hwoever, and the home side would eventually come out tops in a game of odds, as they sustained their attacks with expansive running. No-one picked Tobias Wurzinger up when the Austrian midfielder identified a gap in the 60th minute, and he would slot it all but uncontested past Massoud Dob
, to give the Jokers a 4-2 lead.
's response was to allow Cyril Künzler
on in the hope of kickstarting Grilled's offence, a tactical substitution that Jae-Jun Kim mirrored, with his introduction of the ageing but still rapid Jatin Bhogle for Luo. Noubaryan's next gamble was Yuta Nakakita
on for Webb, and the strategic roulette would finally resolve itself... in Joker 9's favour. They operated as a far more cohesive unit on the whole, and Ho Ah Kian's second goal - in the 79th minute - was wholly deserved as reward for a multiple-wave attack.
There would be one more, from Wurzinger in the 83rd, as Grilled more or less gave up the ghost there. Prokop Mottl
remained eager enough to come on for Kalki for the last few minutes, but the damage had long been done.