Quincy Guerilla Duty
Grilled Birds returned to the top of the S-League via a massive 6-2 home victory against UDNTK FC, making this the tenth meeting between the clubs, and the second since they had been renamed from Kim Tae Hee FC. Of course, they had clashed in the Singapore Cup just last season, in a Round of 16 fixture most remembered for Kalki Parvathaneni
's hat-trick. Visiting head coach Tan Hock Ping would try to address their issues from that match with some tweaking, but the final result wouldn't be far removed.
Tan had been fairly ruthless in his reshuffling for the S-League, with the likes of local national U-20 darling Wei Qiang Jun not making the cut after a dip in form, leading to his sale to Spain's catanya 2009 for S$11 million. A similar fate awaited Ryszard Zbroński and Roland Szöky, among other first-teamers, although this would provide the club with the funds to bring former Batok Earthquakes and Joker 9 star Quincy Ton back from Bulgaria, for a hefty S$13.9 million. While Ton was undeniably lethal in repeating his brace from last week against The EV, it was far from enough to swing the game their way.
UDNTK FC were quite rightly concerned with Kalki Parvathaneni
in the build-up to the match, only for them to discover that Eren Serpin
hadn't even selected the Number Ten to start. Chan Ze Han
would take up the centre forward slot instead, with Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Kalle ter Berg
- the latter due to a lingering knee problem - also glaring omissions. Serpin would return to width against UDNTK FC's probable low block defence here, which was exactly how it turned out to be.
The league match got off to a slow and cagey start, with the visitors largely content to wait for their chance, but Tan Hock Ping would have an early decision to make after French right winger Mariano Miguel was laid out on his back in the eleventh minute, following a stiff challenge gone wrong. That wasn't too puzzling, as Wolf-Alexander Milkau was available to step in for a direct replacement.
That little interruption didn't do much by itself to rouse the teams, and the first slice of excitement would only arrive some five minutes later, as Mateja Jeftić
lined a free-kick up, and sent it whirling just over the bar. Grilled had made the right move in forcing width, that said, and Heng Dong Chu
was making much headway against a harried Bedřich Stryk. One such foray on the half-hour was executed in conjunction with Chan Ze Han
, a partnership which yielded the first goal from Heng's wisely-delayed assist.
It would also be Heng's final act in this game, after he suffered a minor concussion after releasing the pass, and Chu Xin Lee
's entry would be followed by a quick reply originating from Milkau. The German was by far the more battle-ready of the two subs at this stage, and he would nearly beat Massoud Dob
outright with his outside-the-box scorcher. That would come off the woodwork, but more or less as Quincy Ton had envisioned it, and the newcomer was on hand to put the ball back where it belonged for 1-1.
That sort of foresight is what separates the true top forwards from the pretenders, though it wasn't as if Grilled were lacking for such quality themselves. They had their own post-season big signing in Wu Jinglong
, and the winger was eager enough to pick up where he had left off for Sarcastic Fringeheads. Few had profited by underestimating Wu due to his age, and there was certainly no sign that his 35 years had dulled his shooting edge, as he drove Bhavya Panigrahi
's long pass into the net after a single bounce.
Wu would immediately turn provider in supplying Bernie Egan
for a headed goal, but it was probably Quincy Ton who made the greatest impact in the first half, regardless. With his team badly needing a pick-me-up going into the break, Ton rallied his troops to a last, all-out charge as referee Evan Jones checked his wristwatch, and was amply rewarded by drilling it in amidst the massed chaos.
This was enough to swing the commentators the visitors' way for the duration of the interval at least, and Ton would surely have to be hailed as some sort of a genius, had they carried on that way. It was not for want of trying, but they would soon be back in their default defensive posture, as needs must.
The match would pick up yet again after another Jeftić attempt, this one requiring Martin Barbara to make the save, and the Maltese goalkeeper's distribution wasn't half bad either; he managed to pick Daniel Tăsică out from fifty yards, though Wilfred Baranczyk ultimately couldn't do the counterattack justice, and would shortly afterwards be booked for a dangerous tackle on Wu Jinglong
The Wu-Egan partnership would really kick into overdrive at that, with Baranczyk's willingness to get up close and personal having been one of the major factors keeping Wu from cutting loose. It would be all over in the next eight minutes, with the winger first outpacing Strzeżysław Warta handily for Grilled's fourth, before playing a major part in Bernie Egan
's maiden league hat-trick for the Birds.