One Way Through
In a match between teams at very different stages in their development, the visiting Birds were crushed 1-4 by hosts Lawrence, KS FC, whose forebears St. Xavier's FC are currently also doing well in the S-League. LKS FC's bevy of national defenders was too much for this Grilled side to get through, as club leader Moey Xin Seng
would eventually discover to his detriment.
The Birds had done well to secure a 2-2 draw at this ground last season, but the odds were always stacked against them for a repeat, as the bookie odds revealed. Perhaps aware of such, Tian Yonghang
would rest Aw Keng Chuan
again, rewarding Mohd Marzuki Khairul
with another start after his excellent league return last Sunday. There were few surprises on LKS FC's end, as Kang Keng Beng - a S$22 million recent signing from Tampines Phoenix F.C. - was given his third appearance with the club.
Kang's arrival would reunite the Singapore national defence further, unavoidably reminding of Farmer Bunnies in their prime, and the Birds quickly discovered that the LKS FC backline was ageing like fine wine. They knew all the tricks, it seemed, and nothing that the Grilled set came up with, could get past five pairs of very experienced eyes. It was not the same the other way around, with current Lions fullback Imaduddin Ahmad sending an incredible ball over the top in the 25th minute, for a most direct counter. Foo Tse Ping had the pace to get to it, and Dimitris Germanakos
' slight touch wasn't enough to keep it out - 1-0.
Grilled had to attack even more than before now, which to be clear was what they were always going to do in any case. Marzuki had spurts of effectiveness trying to run the ball from midfield, most notably in the 31st minute when he drew a hard barge from Frode Haugen, before the pass had even arrived. Haugen would be punished with a yellow, but this was scant consolation for the Birds, as they soon fell behind further to a Kento Tanaka putaway, again coming down the right.
A two-goal lead was enough for LKS FC to tone it down, which only added to the Birds' frustration as they found themselves throwing bodies fruitlessly at a massed formation. Worse, the hosts were definitely good enough to make a breakaway count with only a few men, which forced a certain caution. Half-time passed, and then another sober half-hour or so, before things finally came together for Grilled.
While chances had not exactly been sparse for the Birds, they had largely taken the form of resigned shots taken from poor positions outside the box, none of which caused Leocadio Angarita any concern. If a Grilled goal was forthcoming, it didn't look as if it would be from open play, which was what Kalki Parvathaneni
was banking on when he ran straight at Chow Chun Jin in the 74th. Chow might have gotten the ball first but for a little shuffle at the last split-second by Kalki, and Bhavya Panigrahi
pumped the penalty high to the left - though Angarita wasn't far away.
That would be as close as Grilled got, unfortunately, as Moey would then be sent off after two fouls - one defensive, and one offensive. The first, coming after a string of passes by the home side, was a classic taking-one-for-the-team felling of Siew Siong Feng, for which he was slightly lucky to stay on. It was then an easy decision for Spanish referee Pedro Ignacio Porcuna when Moey went in hard on Angarita for a ball he was never going to win, next.
Now down to ten men, Tian would go ahead by replacing Panigrahi with Webb to introduce some fresh legs, but it wouldn't matter as Siew exploded down the right flank again for the umpteenth time. This one would get through, and Gino Revillard got it in after some chaotic scenes in fron of the Grilled net. The Birds were left chasing the improbable as Tommy Ali came on for Haugen to while away some extra seconds, but only achieved an unwitting own goal by Enrique Baena
in the last minute of time added on, for their pains.