The Birds would be reunited with Club Dinosauria after last tussling with them in the S-League three seasons ago, and while they have done well with two runners-up finishes in Division Two and another Emerald Challenger Cup since, they would be unable to break their Grilled hoodoo, which has seen them lose all four of their recent S-League meetings with the Birds. Today's would top them all, however, as newly-declared Player of the Season Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
exploded with his first hat-trick for the club.
Considering Grilled's decline, many pundits considered this potentially very close, though most had the Birds holding at least a slight edge due to home advantage. Deinos player-coach Heng Ah Wei moreover had a settled squad to pick from, with their only major change last season being the addition of Italian wide man Dino Biliotti, for a princely S$18.6 million. Biliotti would start at leftback today, with Che Zambil Ridwan commanding the visitors in midfield, alongside Chew Long Hock and Ong Chao Ah in a 5-4-1.
To be extremely frank, all of those midfielders were rated more highly than the Birds' veterans as of today, helped by being smack in their prime; Grilled in contrast would have the going-37 year-old Moey Xin Seng
, a barely-younger Chu Xin Lee
, and a Teo Chuan Yong
somewhat down in the dumps, facing them. Heng Dong Chu
had not managed to win back his starting spot, so it seemed, with Kalki Parvathaneni
still preferred. Shekar Kannan
would take the other wing.
Worries over whether Grilled's losing habit had carried over from before would soon be dispelled, happily, as they quickly regained their vicious mantle of old. Heavy pitch notwithstanding, they seemed to know every inch of it, and Vikram Mudaliar
would glance a header just past the post, in the tenth minute. Mudaliar was notably playing support for once, with Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
in the unfamiliar role of being furthest up top - and boy, did he make the best of it.
Actually, this was a natural promotion given that he had led the club in scoring last term already, and Abd Hadi was eager to prove it no flash in the pan. Numbers seemed to mean little to him at times, all the more with Deinos gambling on inexperienced sweeper Zachary Truong, and Abd Hadi would drop a shoulder to slot the first goal home in the 19th minute. Worse was to come for U-20 lad Truong, as he got utterly fooled by Abd Hadi's dancing feet ten minutes on. His lunge for the ball was telegraphed, and Grilled's Number Eight simply slipped it through his planted legs afterwards, before again finding the right angle past Florea Răducu.
2-0 was no time for Grilled to wind it down, and with their supporters roaring for once, they sought to press their advantage as much as they could. Ridwan would try to maintain order in the ranks, but Deinos' central defence was simply not up to scratch. For all of Cheah Eng Dong and Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek's national caps, it was clear that they didn't belong at the back, and none of them would be on hand to prevent Chu Xin Lee
from sneaking by on the very next attack, for Grilled's third.
It could have gotten very, very bad for the visitors indeed as they wilted under the onslaught, and Heng would go from screaming on the sidelines, to sitting sullenly in the dugout. Abd Hadi was absolutely glutting on the service as the half wound to an end, and while he would complete his treble after Răducu spilled a powerful Moey Xin Seng
drive, it might well have been four or five had he done more with Shekar Kannan
's late deliveries.
The home fans were singing loud at half-time for the first time in a long while, and Salah Kamel
would be greeted by the same upbeat enthusiasm, as he entered for Chu after the break. This probably did Deinos more good than the Birds, however, as they reverted to some semblance of their intended shape. While they were still not threatening much if at all, they would at least keep Grilled away mostly, with only half-chances by Teo Chuan Yong
and Vikram Mudaliar
coming for the next thirty minutes or thereabouts.
Their German centre forward Lech Tarkowski would moreover get a few hopeful long balls hit towards him, but given that he was usually double-marked by Panigrahi and Douglas, this wasn't going to work. Deinos' luck would eventually run out, however, and Mudaliar would score in the 74th minute with Abd Hadi drawing too many defenders to him.
It could get worse, and Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek would be left red-faced after gifting Chan Ze Han
the sixth goal, with ten minutes to go. Consistently one of Club Dinosauria's best performers the last few times the clubs met, he would have his considerable creativity tamped by being forced into defence, and seemed to forget where he was when trying a casual crossfield pass sideways to Cheah. Chan had been watching out for that, and knew exactly the give-and-go to execute with Mudaliar.
Poor Deinos had barely recorded a true attempt on Grilled's goal since a long free-kick struck more out of petulance than of any real expectation of scoring in the first half, but they would finally achieve that after Chan's strike. Bhavya Panigrahi
, with so little to do, fluffed a low-percentage ball hit forward for Biliotti, and the Italian speedster found himself with a brief window of opportunity. He would find himself closed down rapidly, sadly, and Jānis Salmiņš
had no problem with the weak finish.
An undaunted Panigrahi would join in the attack, firing somewhat high over, as Grilled continued to enjoy themselves, and the double substitution of Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Gilbert Webb
in the final minute would be met by dancing fans; Deinos were perhaps mistaken in believing it was all over for all that, as Panigrahi stamped his mark with a flier past Răducu, after a devil-may-care dribble through the lines deep into injury time.