While Grilled Birds had managed to hold Arcturules 3-3 on their own ground earlier in the season, it would be a different story altogether at Arcturus Starworks, as the Birds could not help but fire blanks at Marko Karhunen's goal. This combined with Arcturules actually playing their strongest backline - instead of stuffing Karhunen and various bit-parters into it previously - made it all but impregnable to Grilled's defence, leaving their forwards to feast on the many reversals that ensued.
With Karhunen back between the sticks, former Egyptian youth international Anis Kheir Allah would drop back to defence, as the hosts went for a pure counterattacking tack. Innocent Mpondo would be joined by the transfer-listed José Ortega Molina and Hansjürg Ringier in this configuration, as Arcturules sought to spend as little time dallying in midfield as possible. Against this, the Birds would aim to build into their attack through Lim An Keng
and Mohd Marzuki Khairul
, with Paulino Trindade
chosen on the right wing, after Enrique Baena
had committed one indiscretion too many.
The game began with Grilled invited to go at Arcturules' five at the back, which they accepted. Bilal Mohammad Harun
, deployed at centre-forward today, would gamely try to drive in on Anis in the fifth minute, but would lose control in the process. Karhunen booted it back out to Ringier waiting inside the centre circle, and the break was on with Molina pulling Gilbert Webb
with him, in a race to the natural through pass. Ringier obliged, and Molina's extra burst of speed sent him uncatchably past the aging Scottish defender, and left him to score one-on-one versus Dimitris Germanakos
The Birds had the possession stats, but little else, as they were largely left to play the ball between themselves, way out of shooting range. There were exceptions such as Aw Keng Chuan
's stinger in the 22nd minute, which forced Karhunen into an instinctive block. So was it again when Marzuki got a free-kick out of opposition captain Desmond Esdaile in the 33rd minute, but Panigrahi bent it wide, and the resulting quickly-taken goal-kick instead saw Innocent Mpondo spring Grilled's offside trap for their second goal.
Twice bitten, the Birds had to start being somewhat shy of leaving space behind themselves, and Arcturules would shortly afterwards also suffer a blow, as Argentine defender Jonás Pedrón fell heavily on his right shoulder, after banging into Chan Ze Han
. That had Uygar Mebruk called into action after extended on-pitch treatment couldn't resolve the issue, with Marzuki then failing to connect with a nice Teo Chuan Yong
cross before half-time.
The second half resumed with Grilled torn between their need to make up at least two goals, and their fear of leaking cheap ones on the counter again, which turned out to be insurmountable with their current squad. Aw would stay behind to cover for the slowing legs of Webb and Panigrahi, but this would leave the Birds with even less bite, when they had the ball. This wouldn't keep Chan from testing Karhunen with a magnificent lob, or for Moey to send some hearts aflutter with a brave but ultimately doomed charge in the 66th minute, neither of which ultimately amounted to much.
would have Prokop Mottl
warming-up on the sidelines on several occasions, as he debated whether to reward the Czech forward with an appearance, but frankly it seemed unlikely that he would be the difference. Arcturules did yield a moment of weakness in the 74th, when they were opened up on the right side by Trindade's direct running, which forced Otto Zechendorf to fell him from behind. The cross had already gone through to Chan, however, but Karhunen sprang forward, and caught the finishing strike with his trailing leg.
Arthur Quesney would soon haul Zechendorf up for a yellow card, but there would be no turning back of the clock, since Grilled had played their advantage there. Lim An Keng
would then get a weak effort on target, as Mottl came on for Bilal with ten minutes remaining. A consolation goal looked eminently possible as the Birds were really firing on all cylinders now, but not even Moey Xin Seng
could manage it. He would skip Mebruk's tackle in the 87th minute, but this was again anticipated by Karhunen, who positioned himself perfectly for the save, to the fans' delight.
It would instead be Arcturules to claim a third goal, as they played it back out intelligently, against a flagging and dispirited Birds team. A few crisp passes would see the ball end up with Anis Kheir Allah, who had sprinted with intent from his usual position, and the Egyptian star would stick it into the net, as he had done in the teams' previous meeting.