Joseph Gets One
Eleven seasons separated Grilled Birds and Cats United from their last meeting back in Division Three, but it was not at all that distant for Kalki Parvathaneni
, who followed up his goal on that occasion, with two more in today's cup clash. Chan Ze Han
, Moey Xin Seng
and Chu Xin Lee
were Grilled's other holdovers from that period, a reflection of the continuity present in their squad.
After four wins and a draw in their first five competitive matches, Cats United had finally met their match against Upright Stick of Justice on Sunday, and had to endure a 0-2 stiffing, thanks to a late Lim Jing Seng brace. Having possibly taken some inspiration from how Haha had dealt with this Birds attack, the Cats would attempt to emulate their counterattacking posture in a 4-5-1 - which however would be rather less successful.
Having distinguished himself on the wing recently, Kalki would be restored to a more advanced position this game, with Heng Dong Chu
returning to the left flank. This setup would take only three minutes to show its bite, although Kalki would stab Heng's excellent pick-out narrowly wide. Not a problem as Grilled would continue producing, though, and some quick feet saw the Number Ten dink Bilal Mohammad Harun
's central ball home, in the seventh minute.
Cats were not about to allow themselved to be walked over, and if they were not exactly wholly up to the Birds in the moving-the-ball-around department, they were no strangers to the more physical side - and subtle enough to mostly get away with it. This got sufficiently into Vikram Mudaliar
's craw, for the forward to get booked for protesting a call against him; Kalki would be carded next for a typical striker's tackle, a bit after another close miss.
There was no lack of chances for Kalki today, however, what with Heng doing a number of national star Lai Jia Wen, but ironically his best openings would come via less-inspired plays through the middle. Cats United usually had the numbers back there, but remained vulnerable whenever Grilled could thread the needle from midfield, which was exactly what happened in the 25th minute by Moey Xin Seng
. Kalki would watch goalkeeper Low Teck Tong as he bore down upon goal, and released his chip over the goalie at exactly the right moment.
The match remained much closer than the 2-0 scoreline might have suggested, however, as the Birds hadn't had any shots on targets other than their goals. It would get closer still in the 32nd minute, when former Nigerian international Mohammed Obaseki was released down their right side. Nineteen year-old Danny Joseph appeared to have used his arms to help climb over Gilbert Webb
to score, but Brazilian referee Vicentino Madureira gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Cats United were given a morale boost by that, and with Villads Lauritzen and Yoann Boudin now matching their Grilled counterparts in midfield, they would get to half-time about level on optimism, if not on goals. This happy state of affairs wouldn't continue very deep into the second half, however, and they would be struck by a double whammy on the hour. First, Kalle ter Berg
would find Low's top corner on a spin, and the restart would be immediately stolen, and then rushed into the net by Bhavya Panigrahi
, as Grilled swamped the Cats' box.
This was what Eren Serpin
had been waiting for, to save Chan Ze Han
's and Kalle ter Berg
's legs, and they would be pulled off for Chu Xin Lee
and José Luiz Velho
to have a go. Grilled would take some time to regain their rhythm, including a long stoppage for Li Ting Woon to have his arm looked at, after falling heavily on it. Velho would put it wide when the game resumed, which in turn brought a counter from which Villads Lauritzen shaved Jānis Salmiņš
Grilled were not done yet, and there would be one last goal from Bilal Mohammad Harun
, after Moey's shot had been judged to have taken a slight deflection in going over. The corner became an indirect free-kick closer to goal, and Bilal would be lurking in just the right spot, when Panigrahi whipped it hard and low inside.