Ze Han In Stoppage Time!
Grilled have picked up the admirable habit of winning matches they should perhaps not have, and this was again in evidence today, as they survived some horrific defending to gather full points against the visiting Club Dinosauria. Ang Mo Kio's best had maintained a positive record against the Birds from four games in II.2 from some fourteen seasons ago, and they were every bit as competitive in this return to The Cooking Pot.
Freshly-appointed Deinos head coach Heng Ah Wei might be only 31 years of age, but from his guidance of the club to three league wins in their first four S-League matches - the exception being a 0-2 away loss to Sarcastic Fringeheads - his tactical abilities were not to be downplayed. As against Fringeheads, he would resort to counterattacking for this difficult away test, if with four at the back now. German centre-forward Lech Tarkowski would be omitted, as was former national U-20 midfielder Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek, who might have been reserved for the cup.
Much then would depend on Ong Chao Ah, or so the analysts had it, as Ong indeed settled himself in what looked like a critical sweeping role in front of his defense. As for Grilled, the recent injury crisis has narrowed Eren Serpin
's choices somewhat, though it appears to have eased. Kalki, Künzler and Jeftić might not have started, but all three made it to the bench, with Bernie Egan
being the only regular on the long-term list.
This resulted in the Moey-Chan forward partnership often rated as among the fans' favourite, but Deinos weren't about to just let them parade in front of the packed stands. Despite seldom deploying a 4-5-1, their back four would work well as a unit, and the wingback pairing of Bok Nie Jin and Randolph Chiu went about their jobs very professionally, despite both arguably being more at home elsewhere. Grilled got next to no joy in the first twenty minutes or so, and had to rely on Massoud Dob
's agility in the twelfth minute when he twisted in mid-air to punch Hemanth Shetty's strong header from a corner aside.
That opportunity aside, the visitors were admittedly not creating too much by themselves, and their emphasis would only switch more and more to just keeping the Birds away. Ong was instrumental in this, as he provided the extra heft that Deinos needed, such as in the 26th minute when he somehow manhandled both Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Vikram Mudaliar
together. Still, Kalle ter Berg
would elude all on the left only to screw his shot across goal, and while Chu Xin Lee
put the ball back in at pace, Neeraj Muthyala
didn't get the contact that he wanted.
It was nonetheless a sign of things to come, as the tempo only increased towards half-time. Radovan Pěnkava's top-class block off Chu in the 39th had Deinos swing into action down the same right flank, but Bok Nie Jin appeared to run out of breath, just as he got within range. Gilbert Webb
gathered the ball with great relief, and it soon wound up with Kalle ter Berg
on the edge of the penalty area as an invitation to shoot - which he did.
The Dutchman had evidently not gotten enough of scoring, as demonstrated in the Hattrick Masters against Sol Mar, and on this evident, he should definitely not stop trying. Deinos would abandon only pretense at maintaining their shape as they strove for an equalizer before the break, which they sensationally achieved through Randolph Chiu, as he threw Bhavya Panigrahi
off on a free-kick. Their hopes would be cruelly dashed, however, as Moey Xin Seng
took it upon himself to break inside for 2-1, with Danish referee Vitus Bjerregaard visibly hesitating as to whether to blow for time.
Deinos were not about to be rushed despite Moey's late gift, and returned for the second half seemingly only more determined not to concede, even if this limited their own production. This was not without its risks, and it would require Qatari debutant Nawaf Sada's utmost concentration, to deflect a number of serious Grilled advances. The 29 year-old former youth international had been thrown right into the deep end after arriving from Romania's urnivesitatea, and considering his S$5.57 million price tag, Club Dinosauria have got an incredible bargain.
Not even Sada could hold the Birds off indefinitely, though, and Pěnkava would have to be alert, to ward Bhavya Panigrahi
's drive from the left side away. Two minutes later, Chu Xin Lee
would put one over, which fed into the counterattack that Deinos had been waiting so long for. Randolph Chiu sped off and away down the right as Bok Nie Jin played the telegraphed diagonal long pass, and Che Zambil Ridwan polished the final square ball off, in a ruthless economy of motion.
There was little time for the visitors to celebrate, as Kalle ter Berg
got another goal entering from the left side, with Moey having pulled two defenders to himself. Serpin seized the opportunity to pause the game with a substitution, and as Webb came off for Mateja Jeftić
, the head coach tried to relay a stream of instructions to key players. Serpin's opposite number Heng Ah Wei was only happy to do the same, and was moreover keen to extend the break, by making his own change - Ivo Mana in, captain Randolph Chiu out.
It was the Deinos gaffer who got the best of this brief interlude, from what transpired immediately afterwards. Whatever Serpin had tried to say had apparently fallen on deaf ears, as Grilled advanced in force down the left, only to be caught with pants down on a superb tackle. Ong Chao Ah blazed inside, fired heavily at the crossbar, got on his own rebound, and thumped it home on the second attempt in a combination well worthy of his nickname - "Kryptonite
Three-all appeared to be enough for Heng, as he sought to eat the minutes away with his two remaining subs, while directing his men to while away the seconds as well. And he might have succeeded, what with the linesman seeing fit to add only a single minute of time... at least until Chan Ze Han
was somehow allowed to waltz past multiple defenders right at the death, before lobbing Pěnkava as if it were just another day at the office.