Benging Them Out
Chan Back At It
Ah Beng FC, Singaporean spin-off of former SA Premier League side The Elbonians, would be entirely overawed by the Birds' attacking stars, as they crashed hard to a 1-7 defeat in the fifth round of the Singapore Cup. Spanish head coach Ignacio de Talavera was justifiably confident having won his first eight matches of the season, and though they were pushed hard by Yew Tea on Sunday, young strikers Hugo Burgau and Gonzalo Giménez Paz displayed great mettle, in recording two each. Neither would start today, but Ah Beng FC retained more than enough talent up front, chief among them Italian standout Aronne Cini, who had excelled in their dismissal of Controlar last week.
De Talavera's gameplay would place much pressure on Liechtenstein centreback Joseph Hartmann, however, who among with team captain Meriç Erbay would be tasked with stifling the Birds' frontmost threats, and setting up counterattacks. This was a bold tactic to pursue with a 3-4-3, if not entirely unfounded in theory, Unfortunately for the Bengs, they would have to contend with a Chan Ze Han
fresh off a fortnight's rest, and Chan would duly put paid to their best-laid of plans.
It all hinged on whether Ah Beng FC's system would be able to consistently withstand the Birds' pressure, and the answer would be revealed within minutes of actual action - to the negative. Even with narrow fullbacks, Grilled's concentrated firepower was simply not mitigable by a single defender, competent as he might be, and the Bengs would learn that lesson the hard way. Reigning Player of the Season Vikram Mudaliar
took just five minutes to score for the seventh straight match, as he probed a way past Hartmann with verve and some trickery, to spread a cultured shot past Carl Ludwig Hummer.
This was certainly not a fluke from how Grilled kept it up, and chance after chance would be created by their production team, most prominently Chan Ze Han
. He was a veritable pivot as he orchestrated attacks to this side and that - almost always exactly the right direction for maximum discomfort to the Bengs' defenders - beginning with a delightful floated ball wide for Cyril Künzler
, that Hummer barely reached first. A similar assist to Bernie Egan
would work out perfectly in the 19th minute, though, and Ah Beng FC were three goals down several minutes on, with Gilbert Webb
not shy about pulling the trigger, upon retrieving possession from a good tackle on Moey Xin Seng
Ah Beng FC were by no means a bad team, and their young and dynamic front three would pose a few problems of their own; Swiss centre-forward Benny Shkodra took advantage of Bhavya Panigrahi
being distracted to shoot in the 31st, but that didn't test Manuel Vadalà
properbly, being straight at the keeper. Chan would show him how it was done before the half was out, as he had opponents standing off him in anticipation of another final pass, only for him to lift it to the far post instead.
would be taken off with an eye towards the huge coming Fringeheads game, with Chu Xin Lee
offering an entirely different kind of headache for the stressed-out Hartmann. Chu might not be quite as quick as Mudaliar, but he was if anything far more deceptive, and with Chan Ze Han
on the same wavelength, poor Hartmann wouldn't be able to cope. There remained the matter of Hummer, of course, but Chan again left the custodian with nothing to do, with a second brilliant chip while falling forward.
Even the most diehard Ah Beng FC supporters were resigned by now, and Kalki Parvathaneni
would be next to step up to the plate for a double. Having again done an excellent job on the left, frequently interchanging with an understated Heng Dong Chu
, Kalki would be first to crosses from the left and the right, coming within three minutes of each other. This made it seven-nil for the Birds, with more than half an hour to go.
was more than satisfied at the lead, and the players would - perhaps slightly grudgingly - heed his calls to save themselves for the league, after Kalki's second went in. Of course, both Kalki and Chan kept half an eye out for a possible hat-trick, but the ball no longer fell kindly for them, and the Bengs would instead salvage a consolation, through Jozef Haluško rounding Panigrahi on the right side in the 58th minute.
Devlet Hicri would find himself more and more involved in Ah Beng FC's offense as the match went on, which brought a near-miss from a Hartmann free-kick curler on 65 minutes, but just about everyone knew deep down that the outcome had been settled. Panigrahi's below-average performance would see him subbed out for Yuta Nakakita
with twenty non-eventful minutes to go, before Salah Kamel
got another cameo appearance on his stat sheet.