In a near-repeat of the clubs' Ruby Challenger Cup clash a full fourteen seasons ago, Grilled Birds defeated Serangoon's PS Toraja Muda by five goals, in the second round of the Singapore Cup. Alas, the proud Youngsters have since entered administration after winning the Sapphire Challenger Cup and a brief two-season stay in II.2, as a combination of financial overextension and dwindling board interest caught up with them. This also saw the departure of closely-watched Australian youngster Billy Haumono, who would be sold to Polish Division Five club KLUB 125 DMM for S$7.6 million, in a last-gasp effort to balance the books in vain.
What was left to Toraja was a rag-tag bunch of supporters and neighbourhood chaps, who were however determined to uphold the club's legacy, as best as they could. Schoolteacher Alexander Sugiyama would have six hit past him by Phondle SG, just weeks after their original team had pulled off a 6-2 win over two-time Singapore Cup winners, Edbe FC. They were unchallenged in advancing past Ang Mohs in flip flops via walkover in the first round, which some had attributed to the Ang Mohs wanting to concentrate on Challenger Cup competition.
As it was, the Birds had plenty to answer for after their big league defeat, and were not sparing much today; although Bhavya Panigrahi
kept his place under heavy scrutiny, Heng Dong Chu
would be benched today, with Kalki on the left and Teo on the right. Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
was back at right attack with José Luiz Velho
entrusted with a rare start, and Chan Ze Han
would play supplier behind them and Chu. On Toraja's side, their biggest name was probably captain and former combined schools star Adrian Eng - now a 27 year-old gig worker - with Teoh Keong Jin and Ali Jamaluddin Yunus having also gotten fair reviews despite their league wipeout.
It was still very much David versus Goliath without the slingshot, however, and there had to be little doubt as to how this was ending, after Chu effortlessly skinned Yunus to slide it past Sugiyama, twelve minutes in. All of the Birds' troubles against Fringeheads would be swiftly forgotten as they indulged against a far more pliable defence, and Chan Ze Han
would wow the crowd by going heels over head, for an acrobatic mid-air strike in the 18th. On hindsight, it was probably slightly unnecessary with a normal header also available, but they all count the same.
The match would get too hot for 18 year-old defender Chirag Gopalakrishnan soon afterwards, and he would have to undergo extended treatment on the touchline, after tweaking his right thigh on a block. Toraja were fine with continuing without him, it had to be noted, with acting head coach Chan Kiong Jing having claimed that he was not expecting anything out of the game. Kalki Parvathaneni
would put more truth to his words, by latching onto a short Eng backpass, for 3-0 in the 33rd minute.
Grilled would be afflicted by the scourge of inadequate finishing at this point, however, with Abd Hadi running through to face Sugiyama alone, only to skim an ambitious far-corner lob over, rather than just go for power. Then again, there was no lack of strength behind Douglas Carapaica
's attempt from distance several minutes later, but it would again be some yards off anyway.
Toraja's amateurs weren't doing too badly for themselves on defence, with Teoh in particular shielding his backline better than some professionals might have done. Sugiyama was not merely there for decoration either, as he read Sølve Lunde
's body shape accurately, as the Norwegian made ready to attack a Teo Chuan Yong
cross. The arcing shot would have gone in, had Sugiyama not backpedalled to push it over the bar.
would score his second goal in the 71st minute on another defensive mix-up, but Grilled were exceedingly wasteful on multiple other occasions following that. Chu Xin Lee
, for example, lumped it straight at the goalkeeper when just about any other direction would have done the trick, while Panigrahi went for placement on the rebound... with far too little pace. That allowed Ong Yau Nie to get across, to stop a goal he had no business preventing.
Well, there would be one further goal in this for Toma Tamiya
, five minutes after coming on for a hardworking but limited José Luiz Velho
. Toma killed Douglas' forward pass dead on his right foot before lashing it to the top corner, for the Birds' best finish of the day - which may say a lot about the team's current state.