In a breathless continuation of Grilled's S-League chase, they ripped through Club Dinosauria at Fossil Park in a match mostly devoid of the more-calculated tactical graces. Instead, sheer instinct appeared to drive the teams after a relatively-conventional beginning, and although Deinos' aggression bordering on savagery would come close to overwhelming the Birds for a period, it would be the latter who survived and thrived.
Club Dinosauria were definitely on a high after capturing their first national-level trophy just eleven days before, with a 2-1 victory over St Xavier's FC handing them the Emerald Challenger Cup. An away win over Bot Team FC followed, and one could hardly account narrow defeats against Haha against them. Grilled themselves had to rely on Chan Ze Han
's last-minute winner in the reverse fixture, recall; much of Deinos' unprecedented success this term had to be attributed to Spanish Number Ten Faust Salvans, whose twelve goals in all competitions had taken them thus far.
Salvans would start alongside Lech Tarkowski and veteran Czech icon Ivo Mana today, the latter having adopted a more-supportive role on the left. Similarly, Chew Long Hock was positioned deeper to help the defence, which was for Deinos - like Grilled - the weakest department. Both Che Zambil Ridwan and Qatari sweeper Nawaf Sada might be able to claim youth international experience, but their indifferent form in recent weeks could not have escaped the Birds' forwards. Indeed, it said plenty that Club Dinosauria had been able to enjoy such successes, despite that.
There would be little time for contemplation once Saut Ketter blew the starting whistle, and it would be Wu Jinglong
who would once again volunteer as the vanguard. Always of the mind that initiative was everything, the former Fringeheads winger would go all out against Fabián Usel on the right side, running at his opponent like a man ten or twenty years younger. It might not have brought him the ultimate reward, but not for want of trying, with a particularly good dribble in the seventh minute only headed off by Sada at the last moment.
Deinos would then transition into the best era of the game, as they began to shade Grilled's midfield. With both trios about evenly-matched technically, raw desire would be all the difference here, and the hosts would have their visitors cowed for a time. Wilting under the onslaught, Gilbert Webb
would give up a penalty against Mana's feint in the 14th, but Adam Bargielski overthought the execution, and allowed Massoud Dob
to read his intentions.
That was a let-off for Grilled, but Club Dinosauria retained the advantage in posture, as they kept pouncing on any perceived weakness. The Birds coped decently on the defensive, but were obviously not about to do so indefinitely, and were finally undone when Deinos created space for Fokko Schlattmeier's unopposed dribble inside, 35 minutes in. The hosts would threaten to continue the beatdown from the restart, with Mana utterly embarassing Salah Kamel
with his quicksilver footwork, but Dob was there to cut the cross out on this occasion.
The winds could change very abruptly indeed, as Grilled then returned what they had received threefold. Their own killing instinct had merely been masked and not extinguished, as evidenced by the incisiveness of their passing, following that last close shave. Four passes took it from their own penalty area to Vikram Mudaliar
bursting into Deinos', and the Number Nine would not break stride as he arced his effort around Florea Răducu.
This would be but an introduction to probably one of the most exciting first-half finishes ever seen at Fossil Park, which unfortunately for the home support, mostly went Grilled's way. A second for the Birds followed two minutes after Mudaliar's equalizer, with Moey Xin Seng
working his way in from the left side, before also exhibiting impeccable accuracy with his strike. Another two minutes later, it was 3-1 for Grilled, with Wu Jinglong
fully recognizing Deinos' vulnerability. He again ran all comers ragged out wide, before picking out Chan Ze Han
for the finish.
Club Dinosauria were in grave danger of being irrecovably swamped by an exuberant Grilled unit at this point, and their salvation would arrive in the form of Faust Salvans, who broke Grilled's spell before it was too late. Not for nothing did he lead the Golden Boot charts, as evidenced by his somehow shaking Bhavya Panigrahi
off, on Schlattmeier's incoming ball, before whipping it first-time across Dob and in off the far post. The Birds weren't overly intimidated, though, and Moey would find the net again with a chip in response, and Kalki might even have gotten a fifth, were it not for Chew Long Hock's selfless block.
Those eight minutes had compressed enough action for an entire match actually, and it was perhaps opportune that half-time arrived when it did, with several players already looking on the edge of a physical breakdown. Wu Jinglong
had for one not skimped on the intensity at all, which would be another matter were he not on the wrong side of thirty-five. It thus came as no surprise that the former Chinese youth international would be replaced by Neeraj Muthyala
for the second half.
As it turned out, while Grilled had certainly exerted themselves, it was the same and more for Deinos, who had little left in the tank - reasonably, actually, given what they had to overcome in the past month. Little by little, the Birds would convert their minor stamina advantage into territorial gains, and eventually had the hosts largely pressed back into their own final third. Moey went for his hat-trick in the 55th minute after a long siege, but didn't come particularly close with his very ambitious lob from afar.
Deinos weren't exactly neutered, but they were having trouble bringing the contest to Grilled, which had the cameras suggestively focus on Ong Chao Ah more than once. Young head coach Heng Ah Wei had no intention of playing that card, however, not even when Fabián Usel's ankle went in the 71st minute. It would instead be Randolph Chiu who went up against Muthyala, as that flank took on a distinctly different flavour than before.
Grilled were riding this one out pretty handily still, and it only became more certain after Mateja Jeftić
replaced Gilbert Webb
with ten minutes remaining. Grilled had held their own attacking throw-in up for that, and when play resumed, Salah Kamel
beat Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek to Chu Xin Lee
's long throw, and Kalki Parvathaneni
polished it off after some to-and-fro. Mudaliar would gun for his second goal as the match approached its end, but it didn't come off.