Proud & Out In Front
Ter Berg The Toast
At the halfway point of the league, Grilled have put together a remarkable six wins and a draw, of which the latest would be this 3-2 at Arrogancae's Avengers Apocalypse. Arrogancae had kept a near-perfect record here in their last successful bid at the national title two seasons back, although the Bunnies had recently shown that they could be defeated on this ground, as the visiting fans were not shy to remind their hosts of.
The Birds might not have required all that much telling, for they had after all knocked Arrogancae out of the Singapore Cup just last season too, in a quarterfinal best remembered for Chan Ze Han
's hat-trick completed in the sixteenth minute. It was this same Chan who would lead Grilled's team out, to grudging acknowledgement from some of the home support, with Moey Xin Seng
having been reserved for the Singapore Cup semifinals.
Arrogancae would again tailor their response to Grilled, but where they had tried to rely on counterattacking previously in a full 5-3-2, the name of the game would be a contested midfield now. Pablo Reznik had an eye on the cup too, but he was perhaps being a tad overcautious in not including László Szetei, moreover with Inesan Kwansah having moved on to Sweden's Keitass. That left Gisbert Odewald their lone target man in a 4-5-1, if supported by a very qualified supporting cast.
It was all the same to Chan, however, as Grilled would make some tweaks too - Chu Xin Lee
had been entrusted with unlocking Arrogancae's defence, after getting rested against FC Barca Singapore last week, and Salah Kamel
stood in for a Bhavya Panigrahi
reportedly low on form. Heng Dong Chu
reprised his best role on the left, but after all this, the Birds remained largely driven by Chan Ze Han
, who weaved between two markers to graze Cristian Marra's crossbar with his exquisite seventh-minute lob.
The home team would get the breakthrough, notwithstanding Chan's vibrancy, as they enacted their primary plan several minutes on. Italian winger Nicola Abis set off on a rapid one-man run down the left, hugging the touchline, trailed mostly by Odewald and Gilbert Webb
, the latter of whom was fighting a losing battle to get between the forward and the likely pass, all the way. Webb indeed lost it, as Odewald swivelled cleverly to further open space between Massoud Dob
himself, and the near top corner.
That goal gave the Arrogancae fans real voice, but reality would inevitably sink in that their visitors were pushing most of the action. The Birds accepted the setback grimly and went back to plugging, to great effectiveness. Arrogancae were no more a naturally-defensive side than Grilled themselves were, and while they did have the numbers, there was always a sense that the centrebacks had an eye towards playing it out. This might have been admirable against other opponents, not so advisable against the Birds, who transformed an interception into Vikram Mudaliar
's highlight-worthy finish mid-fall, in the 18th minute.
That got Mudaliar back joint-top of the league scoring charts, but Grilled were hardly about to be content, as Chan Ze Han
kept on engaging Héctor Montiel in particular. It said much for the former El Salvadorean youth international's abilities, that he was able to hang with Chan for most of the match, but even he could only rely on his goalkeeper to beat back the Grilled star's effort in the 35th. There would be no stopping Chan the next time, though, as he fulfilled his destiny for this fixture by slamming Bilal Mohammad Harun
's assist hard and heavy, for 2-1 Birds.
Arrogancae were back level within the minute, as they certainly looked far more like themselves on the front foot. Kalle ter Berg
was once more probably the most-responsible Grilled fellow, as the Dutchman retained an ingrained tendency to gravitate towards the middle. This often left Abis with room to move, which would result in Arrogancae's equalizer with Hossein Chatrazar bringing it the rest of the way.
That said, Ter Berg did have other facets of his game going strongly for him, and that included a newfound tendency towards putting the ball into the net. Having just tasted two against Barca, he definitely had shooting at the back of his mind as an option at least, whenever he found himself anywhere near the opposition box. Even Ter Berg himself probably didn't expect too much when he let one rip two minutes into the second half, but the ball took a wicked wobble that threw Marra off - further support towards the old adage that one has to take shots to score.
gave no hints that any tactical updates were forthcoming, as many Grilled fans perhaps agreed with, from how deadly Arrogancae had been on the offensive. Staying the course seemed quite sensible, and contributed to a yellow card for Jan Tim Liebenstein, who felt compelled to make a professional foul. The Birds kept the pressure on, and although they might not have managed many clear-cut opportunities, long shooting such as that by Gilbert Webb
in the 59th minute would keep Arrogancae's defence honest.
It remained difficult to tell if the hosts were coping well, but just as they seemed to lose some cohesion, Odewald gave them hope with a hair-raising solo rush from a through ball, that ended with a screamer that floated an inch over the crossbar - to a rooted Massoud Dob
's evident relief.
This was also all Arrogancae were going to get for the day, as Grilled were by far the more likely to extend their lead, in the final twenty minutes; they would barely fend off a cute free-kick arrangement in the 74th that nearly had Neeraj Muthyala
sneak in unaccompanied, and Bernie Egan
crashed a stunner against the crossbar afterwards to boot. Serpin's only tactical concession would be to have Cyril Künzler
come on for Kalle ter Berg
in the very last minute, to help shave those precious seconds away.