Three In The Hole
Bilal Back In Business
The Birds established a six-point safety buffer between themselves and the relegation spots, with today's home 3-0 over tpyers - who admittedly made a better show of it than three weeks before. Some of this could be put down to the return of captain Kwok Ho Shi to the fray, even if the Holland-based club failed to score today, unlike then. Jeppe Svold was shadowed by Enrique Baena
down the left, however, though tpyers' adaptive defending made up for it some.
Mindful of how they had conceded twice by the 20th minute in the previous meeting, visiting gaffer Royce Chen had clearly instructed his team to concentrate on keeping Grilled out for a start - though they would not abandon flair to achieve that. Derek Dizon, who had not started in the reverse fixture, would play a huge part in this early on, with some titanic struggles against Aw Keng Chuan
. Not quite sufficient to shut the Birds out completely, no doubt, as Bhavya Panigrahi
took his chances from somewhat outside the box in the 19th minute, spraying it over Antonio Ramenghini in goal, grazing the crossbar.
That first real shot of note would spur the Birds on, and they would double down on advancing it through the middle, if with Ferzan and Baena proving excellent foils to keep the tpyers backline honest. With the Turkish winger dragging Low Heng Rong across after 33 minutes, a gap would open up, quickly filled by Bilal Mohammad Harun
. The just-turned-38 year-old had not scored in the league since the Tonners late last season, some of it down to an increased reticence to try, but his solid chip here would roll back the years - and put the Birds in front.
The goal shook the game alive, as tpyers went for it with all they had from the kick-off, surely leading some of their fans to wonder why they had not just done that from the start. Mo Jia Aik unleashed one from the left after a takedown of the ball by Kwok, which had Dimitris Germanakos
flustered in scrambling across goal to keep it out. Chan Ze Han
would then ring it off the upright as it got cleared downfield, with the non-stop action finally coming to a close as Germanakos held Mo's next attempt, two minutes later. Referee Rene Marstallsteg would pull the game back then, to book a protesting Alex Ro for an earlier charge into Lim An Keng
That will see Ro suspended for tpyers' next league fixture, and coincidentally or not, it would be Lim to stay off after the half-time break, with Chia Kwang Tse
replacing him instead of Chad Thach
for once. Bilal would also be taken off for Kalki Parvathaneni
despite his goal, which however might not have been a bad choice seeing as to how Kalki took Ben Ishikawa on right after his arrival. Ishikawa was no slouch either, though, and eventually stemmed the run.
The single-goal lead was looking quite vulnerable at this point, with Kwok piling his own worries on Panigrahi, and it was fortunate for Grilled that Chan Ze Han
would provide a needed distraction soon enough. Holding it up at the head of the penalty area, Chan would wait for first Moey and then Kalki to rush past, only to switch his footing and drag it past Low Heng Rong by himself. The finish past Ramenghini wasn't half bad either, as Chan played it safer with his placement this time.
That turned the tide for the Birds, and it would mostly be a question of how many they were going to score, after this. Continued pressure gave Moey Xin Seng
an open look just over the hour mark, that Ramenghini barely tipped wide, before Bhavya Panigrahi
got Grilled's third from a great free-kick dipping over the wall. That made it all worth it for Enrique Baena
, whose promising dribble had been cut short by Dizon, as he threatened to invade the box.
Grilled's momentum would decline soon after, with Ramenghini's stellar stop off Chan's powerful volley to the top corner in the 69th minute, marking the least he had to do for awhile. Panigrahi would go off for Gilbert Webb
as Tian Yonghang
gave him the last ten minutes off, after which the game meandered until injury time, which saw Damian Hutter
tune out and nearly play Kwok in. That mistake would be converted into one last attack for the Birds, but Chan's final effort, way over the bar, was certainly not amongst his best.