Hit Like A Ton
Taking A Bhav
The Birds' league misfortunes would continue, and if their supporters had thought that life would at least be easier in the third division, they would be proven wrong thus far. Downtown side HEBFC Tonners FC, a spin-off of prestigious Pacific Premier club EY XI, would spring a late rally on Grilled at home, having purposefully reserved their energies for that move on hindsight. Then again, the Birds probably had themselves to blame the most, as they were impossibly wasteful, when they had the game under control.
Grilled's first point of business would be to score, so revealed head coach Tian Yonghang
, after they were stuffed 0-1 by Lawrence, KS FC at The Cooking Pot last Sunday - a downer if there ever was one. The chances of that looked fair against the Tonners, who allowed Psyduck FC chances enough last week, and who had to wait to save a draw then. Li Woon Kok decided on an unchanged starting 3-5-2 for them, with the Birds having to do without Moey Xin Seng
due to injury today. Gandhik Chitre
would be entrusted with the centre-forward position ahead of the likes of José Luiz Velho
and Teo Chuan Yong
, in an unmistakable sign of trust from Tian.
It would, alas, again kick off quite poorly for the Birds, as they established a clear dominance in midfield, only to fall prey to a straightforward push through the centre in the sixth minute. There wasn't even that much movement in the hosts' forward line, but Tan Tse Kok's abrupt sprint across to the left would take Gilbert Webb
with him. Former national youth international Yong Siong Eng - playing deep - would dutifully advance into the gap left behind, with leftback Jesse Zabel getting on the end of the neat combination.
The visiting lads tried not to show it, but going behind certainly stressed them out, as Chitre couldn't help but show as he petulantly kicked the ball into the stands in the tenth minute, after having being caught offside. It would take an older, calmer head to restore parity, which Bhavya Panigrahi
did with a marvelous free-kick two minutes later. Othman Hariry, another of the Tonners' young stars, had reasonably fouled Chad Thach
twenty-odd metres out, but he didn't count on Panigrahi's ability to drop it in off the right post, from that distance.
If Italian goalkeeper Andrea Migliozzi could have done nothing then, he would more than make up for it in the next few minutes, as he emerged unbowed after enduring a barrage of shots from Grilled, all on target. Chitre was first with an instinctive lob over the top, destined for Kalki Parvathaneni
but for Migliozzi sweeping it off his forehead. Reflex saves from Aw and Chan followed as the gallery roared its approval, and Migliozzi's aura of invincibility would only be shattered in the 28th minute, as Chan Ze Han
held his strike to draw Leon Ahn's tackle out, before slotting it home for 2-1.
The Birds would fail to build on that lead despite maintaining close to sixty percent of the possession, however, which they would come to regret eventually. It still didn't seem at all bad in the beginning of the next half, with Lim An Keng
again providing some new ideas after coming in for Chia. Another busy build-up by Grilled would earn them another free-kick, this time just outside the penalty area. Migliozzi thought he knew what to expect, but Panigrahi fired to the side of the goal he was standing at this time, outthinking him.
Panigrahi's undoubted talent at putting the ball where he wanted to from a standstill would not be mirrored by his mobility, unfortunately, and the 37 year-old would be revealed as a defensive liability, whenever directly challenged. Grilled's ageing central defence always looked in shambles when run at, and Gay An Soon took on Panigrahi with an embarassing ease, in the 63rd minute. There was no way the veteran Number Two was keeping up with Gay's slick and sharp changes of direction then, and the forward then drove it between Dimitris Germanakos
' legs, to take the cake.
Grilled were clearly hanging on as the match went on, and this was a game that the Tonners would eventually outlast them at. Despite all the attempts from the Birds to slow the pace down, the hosts would exhaust them little by little whenever they gained possession, and it all came to fruition either side of the 80th minute. Tan Tse Kok would be left unattended as Michal Balkovič beat Enrique Baena
for power down the left wing, and Tan was far too deadly a striker to be given that kind of space. Germanakos tried to make himself big, but the equalizer would be smashed into the roof of the net.
Teo Chuan Yong
would enter for Kalki in an effort to turn it around, but he would instead have to suffer the indignity of watching the opponents go ahead, before he even had the chance to touch the ball. Grilled's right flank was collapsing now, and Jurek Forma would make it 4-3 for the Tonners, the next time they gained the ball. Enrique Baena
took it quite personally, it appeared, as he vented with a vicious sliding challenge on nemesis Balkovič, a bit later. This was a clear booking at least, and resulted in the Slovakian wingman going off for Aditya Cariappa.
One last opportunity would be had for Grilled to save a point here, as Gandhik Chitre
turned Zabel on the right side of the box and homed in on goal, having received a pass with back to goal from Aw. Balasubramanian Teja was having none of that, however, and the 19 year-old would race thirty yards to intercept, succeeding in heading it out for a corner, which then came to naught.