Ten Into The Final
No Stopping Them Now
Grilled Birds left their doubters few valid complaints in their last trial before the Singapore Cup final, as they dismantled the visiting Arrogancae with a practised facility. True, this was an Arrogancae hobbled by the absence of first-choice goalkeeper Cristian Marra, and also regulars Bastian Tülff and Beni Schmed besides. Faced with this, Pablo Reznik quite rationally tried to operate on the counter at The Cooking Pot, although it didn't work nearly as well as he might have hoped.
Arrogancae were in shakeup as Reznik made clear his intentions to restructure the squad after their semifinals exit, which has already led to the surprise exit of Finnish up-and-comer Teemu Tonteri; word has it that many of their first-teamers are available for the right price, with Reznik planning to reinvesting the takings into youth such as Surinamese teenager Guno Mao, and 23 year-old Latvian defender Čārlzs Ezerietis. Both would be thrown straight into the deep end, with Mao's first professional appearance thus involving starting before over eighty-eight thousand fans - in goal, no less.
The Birds, likely all too aware of not risking men unnecessarily, would field neither Moey Xin Seng
nor Chan Ze Han
today, with the armband instead going to Vikram Mudaliar
for the first time in the striker's career. It was hardly a weak team otherwise, and Heng Dong Chu
made a reappearance on the left. Bhavya Panigrahi
remained frozen out of the lineup, however, as Salah Kamel
took up defensive responsibilities beside Gilbert Webb
As oft noted, Arrogancae were never a really defensive outfit in spirit, and their 5-4-1 was, to put it frankly, not very convincing - certainly less frustrating than a number of far lower-ranked, but specialist teams. This was not a great recipe at The Pot, and Kalki Parvathaneni
would put the lie to their chosen tactics, in the sixth minute. With a flurry of short passes having distracted the backliners, Kalki would slip past the departing Héctor Montiel with the barest of suggestions, and thrash a grounder past the slightly-overawed Guno Mao.
The visitors had enough steel in them to pick themselves up in good grace, but while their organization was impeccable, it was simply not working for them in terms of creating real attacks. All too often, they went for Nicola Abis on the left, which merely took Chu Xin Lee
dedicating himself to tracking the Italian, to mostly neutralize. The Birds were far more inventive, and had much more possession besides, and it was only to be expected when Heng Dong Chu
held it up on his flank, before pulling it centrally for Kalle ter Berg
to have a go - and what a go it was! 2-0.
The Dutchman's legitimate threat from distance has become another big headache for opponents, what with Bilal Harun Mohammad also capable of the same, and the Arrogancae players were caught in two minds as to whom they should cover. Bernie Egan
would thrive in this environment, but his deliberate chip in the 34th minute would skim the crossbar. Arrogancae's Plan A would come to fruition five minutes later, as Abis finally eluded Chu and put in the perfect cross for Gisbert Odewald, but Massoud Dob
hadn't been dozing off, and met the strong finish with an equally-determined two-fisted block.
Heng Dong Chu
's pure wing skills would avail Grilled on their next offensive move, as he skipped past first Witold Bujak, and then Hossein Chatrazar, in a one-track dribble at Mao's goal. There were probably better options waiting in the centre, but no-one could reprove Heng after he found a gap at the young custodian's near post. In contrast, it simply wasn't Egan's day, as he had another superb dipping strike land onto the roof of the net.
A half-time score of 3-0 was more than acceptable to the delighted home supporters, and there were few signs that the interval would bring much of a change. The Birds stayed on the offense, with Bernie Egan
's relationship with the netting only growing. Arrogancae would get their own back in the 63rd minute, however, with Čārlzs Ezerietis managing a debut goal on the counter, after Bilal Mohammad Harun
's effort had been splendidly caught, and then thrown out, by Mao.
Guno Mao's potential was beginning to show, and the goalkeeper soon made another excellent stop in minutes, once more against Bernie Egan
. It might have gotten very interesting had Gisbert Odewald converted this too, but as with Egan, it was just not Odewald's day for scoring, as Massoud Dob
deflected his powerful shot with an outstretched arm.
That would be a bit of a flash in the pan for the visitors, and the Birds left nothing to fate, with a fourth goal in the 74th minute. They had been working the centre very diligently for some time, with occasional distribution to the wings when the Arrogancae defence seemed too comfortable, and it told much about their discipline that Vikram Mudaliar
had to time his move to the split-second, when it came. Nevertheless, there was no stopping him notching his eighth league goal of the season once he was through, still unmatched amongst all others.
would take over from Chu Xin Lee
in the 80th, with orders to keep and eye on Nicola Abis, and by the time Moey Xin Seng
came on for Kalki Parvathaneni
with two minutes remaining, the celebrations had already long begun in the stands. These went into overdrive as injury time came, as Künzler's corner kick was nearly shoved in by Salah Kamel
, only for Neeraj Muthyala
to complete the forcing for 5-1.
This wasn't the end of it either, as Heng Dong Chu
made a final bid for a sixth, as referee Stig Brokmose took some meaningful glances at his wristwatch. He allowed Arrogancae their ensuing counterattack, and Abis would almost make it count - but for Kamel's challenge throwing his aim just off.