Teo In Rehab
Grilled Birds went eleven competitive matches without a win after today's loss to Ang Mohs in flip flops, which makes their longest such streak in their history, smashing the previous record of ten set during Seasons 63 and 64. Indeed, it may well be extended for several games yet, despite the bravery that the Birds displayed at times against their Toa Payoh visitors.
The Ang Mohs were not on the best of runs themselves, having scraped a 2-2 draw against CE Sindiket 07 following three straight league defeats - but from how they had wiped Grilled 8-0 earlier in the season, they had to remain hot favourites in this matchup. A few changes would be in store, for example Igor Batin instead of trainee Adel Hilmi in attack and Vito Stefančič for Darius Ionescu at the back - with Ionescu shifted to right wing - but this was otherwise much the same XI that had schooled the Birds some months back.
Grilled would have Lim An Keng
and Mohd Marzuki Khairul
start alongside Aw Keng Chuan
in midfield, with the duo having distinguished themselves these few weeks. This was hardly a match for the Ang Mohs' established engine room comprising the likes of former Moldovan youth international Budulai Bîstriţchi, for all that, even if they willingly allowed Grilled to hold on to the ball for more than they had any right to. The visitors would focus on choosing their attacks, and a particularly sweet move in the ninth minute would have to be saved spectacularly by Dimitris Germanakos
. Franco Robbi then set Naim Öztan up from the resulting corner, but the Turkish midfielder delayed a bit too long.
It would still be the Ang Mohs to pull the strings in their adaptive 2-5-3, as they leveraged their generally-superior individual matchups to contain Grilled's relatively amateurish efforts. Centre forward Batin would put it narrowly wide after being played through delightfully through Ulu Davran's blazing run down the left, and it would take an unexpected departure for them to finally take the lead. Teo Chuan Yong
would not be able to get up after dutifully screening Ionescu on the other flank, and it would quickly be clear that he would not be able to continue, requiring Enrique Baena
to come in.
Baena had improved his defensive sense compared to when he first arrived, but it was still nowhere close to the likes of Teo, as soon illustrated with Ionescu stealing several steps on him as Ang Mohs directed play to their right wing. Franco Robbi made a sudden dash to the inside, taking Gilbert Webb
with him, opening up a clear shot for Jonathan Federico Rivas, very well taken. Germanakos was barely done complaining about the lack of marking, when Ang Mohs doubled their lead, with Budulai Bîstriţchi timing his incursion just right.
This was difficult to watch for the some thirty thousand home fans who had turned up despite the pouring rain and recent poor showings, but there would be something to tide them over half-time coming soon. Fortune would finally favour the Birds as an awkward bounce on the wet turf saw Hareb Al-Qaatri slip as he came out to collect what was otherwise an easy take, and resort to taking Chan Ze Han
out, as the alert forward pounced. Bhavya Panigrahi
was entrusted with the penalty, and although Al-Qaatri guessed the right side, Panigrahi had hit it powerfully enough that it didn't matter. 2-1 it was.
The basic flow of the game would stay the same for the second half, and Grilled would have the weather to thank, as they survived a number of Ang Mohs attempts. The slow surface hobbled the visitors' slicker approach rather more than the Birds', and even when they made it all the way - as Öztan did in the 66th minute - it still allowed Webb to be on time to clear the finish off the line. Ionescu would cause many hearts to skip a beat as he pulled out a devastating right-footed rocket with no warning ten minutes later, which should have gone in had it been placed a foot to the right.
The miss would precede perhaps the most exciting three minutes of the day, as Germanakos took the goal-kick with barely any delay, courtesy of a cooperative ball-boy. It went long for Paulino Trindade
, who got the better of Ulu Davran for once by staking out a position towards the ball, and the busy attacking move that followed would end with Panigrahi somehow presented with a six-yard finish, only to be blocked at the last instant by Jonathan Federico Rivas. Ang Mohs' counter was on, and Vito Stefančič did not make the same mistake once he got put through.
With defeat now truly staring them in the face, the Birds won some slight hope back for themselves, as they advanced again through Trindade - with useful support from Lim An Keng
- up the right from the restart. This time, it was pulled back to Aw Keng Chuan
with Ang Mohs packing the box, and Grilled were rewarded by the Number Four scoring his first competitive goal since the season opener, possibly after the slightest of deflections. No more would be forthcoming, sadly, and José Luiz Velho
would fire defiantly into the sky as the final whistle went, after a short cameo on replacing Bilal Mohammad Harun