MCFCSS Taken Out
Grilled Birds had it easy against surprise Woodlands cup semifinalists MCFCSS FC, as they dismissed the III.11 club by six goals to one. To be sure, MCFCSS FC have had some success in knockout competition recently, and their previous deepest run had been to the first quarterfinal round of the same Emerald Challenger Cup four seasons back, where they fell to Zambree F.C.; on this run, they had made it past the Opera Estate Dragons and The EV in the previous rounds, without even conceding. Still, judging from their performances then, there was little doubt amongst most unbiased analysts: barring some miracle, Grilled were going through.
MCFCSS FC were not without quality, with combative 28 year-old homegrown bruiser Zane Trinh having bullied more than a few highly-rated defenders on his day, Tan Wee Shi a more than competent foil at forward, and Italian goalkeeper Candido Lollato - at a transfer fee over some S$10.6 million - a very respectable shotstopper. However, it was also no exaggeration that none of MCFCSS FC's regulars would have made it into the Birds' starting lineup, and this yawning chasm in ability could not be hidden for long.
As with last Wednesday against Bedok, Grilled were incisive from the get-go, and Vinay Katam's optimistic 4-3-3 was hardly suited to contain their top-heaviness. Grilled's midfield was relatively lightweight considering what they had available, with Vikram Mudaliar
and Bernie Egan
not quite counting ball retention as their best qualities. This counted for little with the amount of possession Grilled were gifted, however, and Mudaliar encountered next to no pushback as he carried the ball into the box in the sixth minute. He passed it back out to Moey Xin Seng
upon finally being mobbed, and Moey calmly stroked it goalbound outside Lollato's reach.
MCFCSS FC got a valuable break in the 14th minute entirely against the run of play. Oh Kum Cheng sent it straight to a slow-retreating Collin Chu over forty yards, with such precision that Gilbert Webb
couldn't cut it out by inches. Chu was however definitely not expecting it, and by the time he chased the ball down, Grilled were back in position. The match would then be interrupted as Chan Ze Han
had developed a foot concern in the meantime, and the acting skipper would soon be withdrawn, leaving Moey the armband.
took to Grilled's dominance like a fish to water, and there would be a second goal in the 21st minute, with Davlatov supporting Bernie Egan
's advance to the edge of the penalty area, where he let loose a stunner into the roof of the net. This developed into 4-0 by the half-hour point, with Moey and then Bilal Mohammad Harun
recording relatively mundane strikes, as the Birds laid siege to MCFCSS FC. Without Dhir Kumar's admirable tackling, it would well have been more.
MCFCSS FC were going out, but they had a last hurrah in the 34th. Then, Egan had come very close to sending Grilled further ahead with an attempted lob, but veteran Neo Lee charged his shot down with Lollato helplessly grounded from a previous save. From this, Ng Chi Kim would be set free down the left with Trinh slyly tying Webb up, and the counterattack concluded with Tan Wee Shi just about nudging ahead of Bhavya Panigrahi
to tap it past Eren Serpin
. The Austrian second-choice goalie could probably have done more had he come out slightly earlier, but hindsight was pointless after the fact.
Then again, Serpin didn't have to take it to heart with his team still three goals ahead, and in little danger of relinquishing that comfy lead. Grilled came out for the second half with a clear focus on avoiding unnecessary injuries and bookings, with their midfield more than happy to put fairly-advanced attacks on ice, by passing it all the way back to the goalie. There was more than their fair share of uncontested square passes between Webb and Panigrahi too, with the MCFCSS forwards generally less than eager to expend themselves chasing shadows.
With the big picture settled, it was a question of how many more goals Grilled could find for minimal effort, and they got one in the 68th minute after a ill-considered push up led by Chu. Chin Aik Tian messed it up running into trouble after dribbling back into his own half, and Vikram Mudaliar
wasted no time going directly at the opposition's now-weakened backline. Islom Davlatov
offered himself sprinting alongside Mudaliar, who unselfishly took him up on his offer, after having drawn Lollato to himself.
There were a couple more notable half-chances, with Moey brushing the outside of the post in the 70th minute from a wild outside-of-boot swipe, and Heng Dong Chu
having the idea but not quite the execution, as he lifted it well over, three minutes later. It would be Chu Xin Lee
to knock it in without embellishment in the 75th, with Zane Trinh then booked for tripping Bernie Egan
after he had released the assist in the build-up. Prokop Mottl
would save Heng's legs for the final ten minutes, as Grilled's record wing signing endured another solid yet undistinguished performance.