While Pier Giorgio Marastoni's pre-match comments might have been construed as provocative by some, it was clear that Eren Serpin
bore his Plum counterpart no ill-will at all, as they shook hands at the games' conclusion. "I quite like fellows with spunk, actually." Serpin revealed. "They had every right to psyche themselves up, and they did make a good go of it, especially in the first half an hour. Irfan Sutrisno was exceptional, and if they get another two of him, there won't be a defence in Division Three that can cope easily."
Serpin had some words of encouragement for Heng Dong Chu
, whose anxiety at his apparent low favour was exemplified by a Hail Mary strike as the match wound down, when a pass might have been more appropriate. "We remain to have faith in Heng, and he will have chances to show what he can do. However, we are ultimately in the results business, and I can't make too many exceptions."
It was much less comfortable for Farmer Bunnies, who were taken to extra time by III.5 leaders Merlion F.C.; the former Singapore Consolation Cup winners were 3-1 up as late as the 71st minute thanks to a solid brace from Finnish hitman Aaro Nuortio, and it took late counters for Ibrahim Zahran Al-Maashany
and Vishnu Tallapaka
to eventually catch up. The Buns then took the lead in the 96th thanks to some Nurlan Ablaev
magic, before riding out a flurry of late attacks from the Merlions.
Wong Ting Yew
, who scored Grilled's initial equalizer as sweeper, conceded that they were fortunate that Merlion F.C. had continued their attacking game. "Had they sat back after taking a two-goal lead, I daresay we would have problems forcing the issue. Well, we are through."
New signing Xue Kangfang
had a decent if unprepossessing debut at right back, where he largely deigned to overlap Aitykul Zaripbekov
for most of the contest. Kangfang did get carded in the 107th minute for a critical tackle on Nikolai de Roest, which however only seemed to endear him further, with the Bunnies fans.
This was, as it happened, what Dalibor Kostadinović
wanted to see. "Xue was all we wanted defensive-wise, today. The rest can come slowly."
There was only misery for Grilled International, in comparison, as they were knocked out of the H.I. Ruby Challenger Cup at first asking by Swedish V.89 frontrunners Zarquon FC, who ran up a 4-2 scoreline at their Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Mexican defender Tomás Manzanares carried them for most of the game, and while Wang Chu Chi
and then Arcadi Sansalvador
hit back in the last few minutes, it was beyond them by then.