New Run Begins
This was the first time that Grilled Birds were contesting the Singapore Consolation Cup, not having been eliminated from both the main cup and the Challenger cup early enough in their history. There has to be a first time for everything, mind, and they would make their debut in this third-tier competition against RunRiotFC, a downtown outfit currently in III.13.
A venerable club with a fifty season long history, RunRiotFC have however yet to reach Division Two, and have also not crossed paths with the Birds before today. This has not been for want of funding, however, with the club backers notoriously willing to spend without selling. Juan Raúl Jiménez Ayuso, Péter Bodolai and Vittorio Bucci had just arrived towards the end of last season for a combined S$4.6 million, though only two of those featured unused on the bench today, under Finnish head coach Sami Ahlroos.
Aw Keng Chuan
would return to the fray after a brief break from his packed schedule, and went back to anchoring the midfield behind Chia and Chitre. Manuel Vadalà
would also be trusted in goal, but it might as well have been a tree stump, for all he had to do for the bulk of the match. Possession had never been one of the Riot's strong points, a honest effort by Iranian bruiser Behzad Dezfouli notwithstanding, and they were soon given the run-around by Grilled's nimble youngsters.
That still necessitated a finisher up top, and Chan Ze Han
was happy to oblige. Already the creator of so much of the Birds' history, Chan would claim the mantle of first-ever goalscorer in the Consolation Cup too, after he fed on a mix-up by the opposition defenders in the 17th minute. It has become something of the fashion nowadays to play one's way out from the back, but this could get quite embarassing when it doesn't go well, and Avelín Goyaes will be eager to forget his questionable first touch.
Chan wasn't about to let off while the going was good, and his teammates were falling over themselves to supply him; a candid ball forward from Hwang Teck Fu
in the 23rd would be sent at the far top corner, but Guido Filippini outdid expectations when he managed to get his fingertips to it. No such luck five minutes later on Moey Xin Seng
's penalty take, however, as the Grilled skipper thumped it confidently down the middle, with László Farkas barely done protesting what he thought was a legal tug on Kalki.
The Birds were flowing sweetly right now, and the neutrals at The Pragmatic Elegant Next-gen Intricate Stadium had to be entertained by their vim and vigour. They had the most output via the direct route, with Gandhik Chitre
taking a through ball early for 3-0, after 34 minutes. Filippini kept the situation from deteriorating further as he parried a stunner from Paulino Trindade
on the Birds' next attack, which carried them to half-time.
It would be Filippini to shine once the game resumed, as although Grilled made their usual subs, including Teo and Bilal on for Chan and Kalki in the 60th minute, this did not actually lower their level of play. Instead, it would be sheer shot-stopping prowess from the Italian that kept his team's hope flickering, beginning with a scramble to block from Teo Chuan Yong
, having already gone to ground on Trindade's initial deflected strike.
There was actually nothing that Filippini could do for Atang Mangoye
's miraculous should-be-assist several minutes on, as the Botswanan bypassed their entire backline with impeccable timing on his forty-yard precision pass. Sadly, Bilal Mohammad Harun
wasn't up to it, and Teo would find Filippini unbeatable again, when he got his next attempt from a dipping header in the 78th. Aw Keng Chuan
was carded trying to recover the ball, and although the free-kick was swiftly returned, Hwang Teck Fu
then put it wide.
RunRiotFC had been quiet on the offensive end throughout, and not exactly through want of effort, with Boris Phelps engaging Hutter and Mangoye at numerous if irregular intervals. Their breakthrough would come from a less obvious source, as Dezfouli spotted Hungarian winger Márk Pokorni making his move, with seven minutes to go. Chitre was nowhere to be found as Pokorni streaked in behind, and capped the run with a dink over Manuel Vadalà
, right as the goalie went down in closing.
An improbable comeback looked vaguely possible as the Riot pushed enthusiastically from kick-off, with Grilled unprepared to yield the pacing for once. It was again the Birds' right side that looked unconvincing, and Jordi Morató could have made it 3-2 had Mangoye not had the presence of mind to lurk behind Vadalà. Thai forward Bodin Dumrong-ongtrakul would fall dramatically under slight pressure from Aw, but that would earn him only a dismissive gesture, and then a card, from referee Tasso Bökenbarg.