East Coast Division Three club Sporting Singapore fell 0-4 in their first clash with Grilled Birds, who had the match more or less on lockdown, after Chan Ze Han
gave them the initial advantage. Sporting's frontline power in Diamantis Mitroglou and former Faroese youth international Connor Beard could not be brought to bear given their inability to hold possession, though they did stay within touching distance until the hour mark.
Greek forward Mitroglou had been identified as their major threat before the game, having scored in both their league fixtures thus far, including two on Sunday against Benfleet Branch. The onus was then on Trinidad & Tobago veteran Puneet Ganguly to find a way to get the ball to them, which was a mountain of a job in itself, given that he was up against Chan. Indeed, eight minutes had barely passed when Chan found the energy to swing in from the right side, where he put the Birds ahead on Chu Xin Lee
's dink forward.
Not many players would have thought of that, far less pulled it off under pressure, and it certainly placed Sporting in the unenviable position of having to commit themselves more than they might have wished. This developed into a sustained spell of Grilled advances from the 20th minute onwards, after a rash tackle from Vikram Mudaliar
; Cyril Künzler
, Moey Xin Seng
and Kalki Parvathaneni
peppered Adrián Ascanio, and it was only the Spanish goalie's reflexes that kept Sporting hanging on.
The S$12 million Connor Beard was calling for the long pass to no avail about then, as Grilled continued hogging the ball, with Prokop Mottl
doing his part from left midfield. The Czech backup had been training well recently according to the coaches, and he definitely read Chan's mind in the 31st minute, before the acting captain floated it into the box. Mottl executed as good a diving header as could be expected under the circumstances, but it was from slightly too far out to really worry Ascanio.
The hosts might have been the happier of the teams, having survived most of the first half not further damaged. Noubaryan as it turned out was sufficiently dissatisfied to make a double substitution, with Bilal Mohammad Harun
coming on for a relatively quiet Islom Davlatov
in central attack, and Bhavya Panigrahi
for Yuta as usual. The former turned out to be quite the tactical masterstroke, as he ran the opposition backline ragged with a refreshing commitment. They duly stood off him in the 60th minute, to which he unleashed a cannonball from the edge of the box - straight into the bottom corner.
Sporting's belief, already wavering somewhat, broke at that, and it was three on the Birds' next attempt. Chu Xin Lee
had been making the most of a good matchup against the slightly-inexperienced Willibald Halm, and he caught the Swiss youngster unprepared on Künzler's cutback, by playing it on the volley. Ascanio reacted instantly, but the lob would nonetheless elude him by inches.
They would not go out without testing Massoud Dob
at a minimum, which Mitroglou did in the 71st minute. Jermaine Koelewijn interchanged slickly with the Greek forward on the right, which took him past Panigrahi. Moey Xin Seng
had figured out what was happening, unfortunately for Sporting, and held Mitroglou up long enough for more Grilled players to flood the box, and the opportunity would peter out into a forced strike that Dob handled easily.
Bilal would keep up his hard work at the other end, and another full-powered strike from his right peg would bulge the net before Koen Blumer blew for time.