The Birds' title challenge was left in tatters, afte they crashed to their heaviest league defeat since a 0-8 against saiNts United FC, some fifteen seasons past. If ever there was a day where it could have all gone wrong for them, it was today, and fellow cup specialists UDNTK FC were not in a sparing mood.
There was no inkling of what was to come, when Grilled lined up at Four Seasons Arena, and moreover they had beaten their opponents in their last five meetings, including twice already this season. UDNTK FC - and Andrija Galov in particular - might have made the Birds sweat in the Singapore Cup semifinals, but it was still not obvious if the hosts could do any better. With survival very much at stake, however, club legend Tan Hock Ping was not prepared to meet their fate blandly, and would switch to an attacking 2-5-3 after failing to stall Haha last Sunday.
Forward signing André Celedón would however not find a place in their three-man strikeforce after his S$7.6 million transfer from VINAŠKI KAUKLI, with it instead being Galov and Quincy Ton up top, with Joan Carda set a little back. As for Grilled, Teo Chuan Yong
would be chosen to make his full debut by Eren Serpin
- a decision that, however, both might have regretted on hindsight.
The home team would take just two minutes to make a concrete show of intent. Galov, who had been so effective against Massoud Dob
in the semis, would find himself matched up against Bhavya Panigrahi
, when Edoardo Mirabelli's cross wound in from the right flank. The defender appeared to have the upper hand, but Galov would catch him unawares by swivelling around him at the last instant, and the first-time volley left Dob grasping at thin air.
UDNTK FC's fans would erupt at that, but the match was very much in its infancy regardless. Grilled would have openings of their own in a remarkably open affair, and Kalki Parvathaneni
would equalize in the 23rd minute, after being played through by Salah Kamel
's neat sidepass. Overall, the hosts were still edging it, with their Romanian playmaker Minel Furdui often being a step ahead of his Grilled counterparts.
The floodgates would then open for the hosts, as Benjamin Godlieb's 31st minute strike was clawed aside by Massoud Dob
, but that would only be a temporary reprive. Neeraj Muthyala
dallied too long, and would be dispossessed by Mirabelli, who in turn supplied Joan Carda for the goal. Carda would put his second home some six minutes on, after which Wilfred Baranczyk rounded Dob for 4-1, as Grilled's backline all but gave up the ghost.
had been frantically gesticulating to no avail for the past ten minutes by then, and this did at least bring a first-class opportunity through Chu Xin Lee
's devil-may care rush up the left. Barbara would toepoke Bilal Mohammad Harun
's finish behind, however, and it would instead be Quincy Ton who stretched UDNTK's lead on the corner kick return. It was Gilbert Webb
's turn to have a go next as Grilled rallied desperately, only to again be hit on the break, this time by Galov.
would look as bad as he had for his entire Grilled career, as he could hardly drag himself away for half-time, and from the faces of many of his teammates, there was little belief that they could turn this around. Frankly, given how the Birds were hardly even contesting in that final stretch, that could be the only objective assessment.
Games have been won or lost on spirit, but few more so than this, and although Grilled Birds would recover much of their professionalism after returning, that spring in their step was entirely missing. UDNTK for their part were in no hurry to extend their lead, resulting in an awkward standoff. The match would dawdle along until the 66th minute, when an elbow to Galov's ribs by Gilbert Webb
would see him replaced by Sun Yun Kok. Webb escaped a booking due to the referee not catching it, and UDNTK FC would go with the flow by putting Mariano Miguel on for a slowing Wilfred Baranczyk.
Chan Ze Han
attempted to get Grilled going with a productive dribble at the heart of UDNTK FC's defence upon the restart, only to be brought down by Daniel Tăsică just outside the box. Panigrahi took the free-kick, and while it appeared to be going marginally wide, Barbara was not about to leave any room for doubt with his flying save. Dob was a mess in comparison, as he allowed Sun's relatively weak effort to slip between his legs on their next move, and it was all that Chan could do, to drive the team forward tirelessly but fruitlessly.
Grilled's introduction of Mateja Jeftić
, and then Heng Dong Chu
, would make no material difference, nor did Eren Serpin
seem like he was expecting it to; in the end, it would be the hosts who would really fire up their supporters at the death, with Edoardo Mirabelli stabbing an eighth goal in with the last kick of the landslide.