Chu Takes Charge
Toa Payoh-based amateurs SIA Engineering Company might not have had any real hope of progressing against Grilled Birds, but they put up a surprisingly stiff fight at their Airline House, particularly early on. Made up of present and former employees and affiliates of the national flagship airline, the close-knit Engineers were fearless in their approach, but didn't have the skill or stamina to keep it up for long.
The match saw Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
's official debut at right forward, and also Douglas Carapaica
's first appearance in the Number Three shirt, which he had just claimed after previous owner Kalle ter Berg's departure in the off-season. Chan Ze Han
would play an attacking role behind the front three, with Moey Xin Seng
filling in defence alongside Bhavya Panigrahi
, as Gilbert Webb
was left on the bench following a minor knock in training.
This of course hardly mattered with the Birds expected to cut a swathe through the amateurs before long, but the Engineers proved tougher nuts to crack than most thought, Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
's threatened chip of Liew De Hao in the third minute aside. Their take-no-prisoners approach was in fact enough of a shock that they nearly went ahead instead ten minutes later, with Mohd Amirul Hadi Amar holding Teo Chuan Yong
off in a dogged swagger up the left, to feed Goh Wei Huat in the six-yard box. Goh might have thought he was offside as he half-heartedly went for the header, only to regret it immensely as the flag stayed firmly down.
Grilled hardly had an easy time of it, that big missed opportunity regardless, as the hosts defended with great vigour, if not tact; wave after wave would founder on the massed Engineers defence, until at last Chan Ze Han
went to ground upon contact from Chow Leng Eng, in the 26th minute. That seemed a little soft, but Nigerian referee Anthony Buluku would be convinced after a brief consultation with his linesman, and Bhavya Panigrahi
sent it straight into the bottom left corner, despite Liew De Hao's guessing correctly.
That would be it, as the hosts' adrenaline-bolstered endurance began to run short, and Sølve Lunde
's well-hit volley would pierce through in the 33rd minute, followed immediately by Chu Xin Lee
's flamboyant overhead effort, surely the pick of the day. Even the home fans saw the artistry in that, before reverting to decrying another cynical fall by Vikram Mudaliar
, some six minutes on. Another penalty was awarded, and Panigrahi went for the other post this time, as Liew went the same way.
4-0 was as safe a scoreline as the Birds needed, but the cup game still felt like it was missing something - namely, Abd Hadi's maiden goal for the club. The Birds would quite obviously be working towards creating one for the newcomer, and Chu would be the one to unpick the lock in the 61st, as he drew two defenders before knocking it forward in Abd Hadi's general direction. The New Number Eight saw it coming all the way, and got the drop on Kwek Rong Wee before sending it arcing gracefully over the gone-to-ground goalkeeper, with a delayed release.
There was little disguising that the Engineers were simply trying to keep the final score respectable by now, as Grilled began to showboat a little. Moey Xin Seng
had barely been challenged in defence, with fellow captain Yeoh Kwang An together with Ng Yew Yun having long fallen back into a defensive posture, and would advance up the right side in the 69th minute with little fear of being punished. Teo would play the pass, and Moey smashed it high and into the net, for the club's 5050th competitive goal.
would add a seventh before the end, but it could have been rather more, with Lunde, Chu and Teo wasting some pretty easy openings. Prokop Mottl
would come on for Kalki just before injury time, in the match's only substitution.