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Grilled's first competitive clash against fellow old-timers St. Xavier's FC would be fated to be in cup competition, despite them joining up in the same league, and the result would not be changed from their Singapore Community Cup game from six seasons back - a Birds victory. Chan Ze Han
, precocious teenager then, would skipper Grilled as their main driving force today, but his knack for finding goals was the same as before.
St. Xavier's FC had been smarting after consecutive league defeats, and their narrow win last Wednesday versus Borussia Singapore Club wouldn't bode well for their chances either. French head coach François Goncalves embarked on some minor reshuffling of personnel while maintaining their standard 3-5-2, with Li Nie Jie being rested for Abhirup Mamidi - one national playmaker for another.
It was about to be fairly competitive going by the team sheets, despite Xaviers being assessed as having relatively average players outside their main central core. There was good news on the Birds side, as Islom Davlatov
was passed healthy if Hovaness Noubaryan
found need of him, but the Uzbek would ultimately not even make the bench, due to poor match-fitness.
Noubaryan moreover thought it expedient to try out a makeshift defence of Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Bernie Egan
, which one commentators thought slightly disrespectful of the opposition. If Xaviers agreed, however, they weren't able to punish Grilled for it, as they were immediately pushed back, with Bhavya Panigrahi
forcing Antoni Sauri into a flying save from the get-go. Panigrahi was certainly enjoying the freedom he got on the right, and his second effort - a similar rising strike in the 27th minute - would open the scoring.
Indeed, Xaviers captain Mateusz Uchacz was finding Bilal a more than competent marker, and with Gilbert Webb
playing something of an advanced sweeper role, the Birds were generally able to get two men on whichever Xaviers forward received the ball. Ahmed Eboka lashed out in frustration and was booked in the 30th, while Grilled continued forging ahead, leading to 2-0 from Kalki Parvathaneni
's stroke of genius some minutes later.
It was three before half time, as Chan Ze Han
followed up on another Kalki strike and nicked the block home, and there really didn't look like Xaviers had a way back from that. Levi Chin, who had just made his senior national debut in a 1-4 loss to Italy last week, was probably their best player, but even he found it hard to excel against Grilled's swarming midfield.
was clearly enjoying himself in an attacking role, and when called upon for his dead-ball skills, he would force Sauri into another great save off his top corner-bound free-kick. Xaviers hadn't given up, though, and they pulled one back thanks to Eboka's excellent first touch in the 62nd minute, which eased him past Egan at full speed. Sensing the comeback potential, Goncalves put on former Bot Team FC starlet Broderick Chu, for an indifferent Hilman Abd Ghani Husain Khairul Akmal.
The substitution didn't alter the main direction of the match, however, and Sauri would be very busy trying to have his team stay within range, as he saved from Chu Xin Lee
on Grilled's immediate response, before recovering just in time to stop Chan Ze Han
's attempted poach from some goalmouth chaos in the 76th minute. Alas, he would have no chance when Vikram Mudaliar
pounced on his risky distribution three minutes later, but that was perhaps a forgivable mistake give how Moey Xin Seng
was bearing down.
and Prokop Mottl
took their time entering as Noubaryan sought to eat into the final few minutes, and the game concluded with Eboka testing Massoud Dob
with a remarkably strong wallop from distance.