Grilled Birds 3 - 0 Tampines Phoenix F.C.
Cup, Consolation Quarterfinals, Season 8509 August 2023 05:15 HTT
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Grilled BirdsTampines Phoenix F.C.
Joe Reece (25)
Mohd Marzuki Khairul (31)
Mohd Marzuki Khairul (40)

Season 77W1 - 2Cup
Season 76W1 - 5Cup
Season 53W2 - 0Friendly
Season 51W1 - 0Tournament (Group Phase)
Season 49W2 - 4League

Fire In The North
Marzuki On Top

Four-time Challenger Cup winners Tampines Phoenix F.C. had to be favoured coming into this Sapphire Cup quarterfinals against the Birds, who however pulled off a classic upset against the II.2 high-fliers. A magical first half saw Grilled three up against the Phoenixes' much-vaunted back five, a lead which they held to the end despite some close calls late on.
With this 5-3-2 being one of the formations that Grilled had the least luck in dealing with in the past, what more with a very good Marina Tigers FAS side failing to get past it in the last round despite their seasoned strike trio of Nguyễn Anh Bằng, Neal Innerarity and Sergio Mayans, many had put the Birds down to be similarly frustrated by the organizational abilities of former national superstars Israel Brown and Silmi Zarif. Although their Lions seniors, such as Wong Long Kok and Guan Wen Jin, are now pushing the wrong side of 38, it was evident that they still made for an obdurate unit that knew how to cover seamlessly for each other.

Against this, Tian Yonghang made the call to keep Phua Ming Xin off, instead entrusting Mohd Marzuki Khairul with leading the line - a decision which on hindsight might have won it for Grilled. It was otherwise an unchanged lineup from last Wednesday with Dimitris Germanakos also fielded despite his left knee being conspiciously strapped up, which did not take away from the fact that this had to be Tampines Phoenix F.C.'s best chance ever to finally beat Grilled Birds, with their four previous attempts having ended badly for them. The latest encounter between the two had been eight seasons back in the same stage of the Ruby Challenger Cup, which Grilled won with goals by Chan Ze Han and Gilbert Webb, en route to lifting the trophy.

Neither of those veterans would be in the squad today, but it was again a defender who made the first move, after an all-too-quiet beginning to the game. Damian Hutter has been taking plenty of abuse - admittedly some of it maybe deserved - in recent weeks, but there was no mistaking his imagination when he pumped a flat pass just over the collective heads of the defensive line, in the 25th minute. Joe Reece had moved before anyone else in anticipation, and the replays would confirm that the Welshman had stayed onside, if just barely. One-nil!

Former national youth goalie Neo Jie Wei was not happy with his backline for that, but his own age-based limitations would be cruelly revealed next. While Grilled's midfield interplay was decent, all the intricate passing could muster would be a dubious opportunity with Chad Thach squeezing out a diagonal pass drifting away from goal, with Guan Wen Jin dutifully tracking Marzuki... or so it looked. Marzuki twisted to blast it at the near post, and certainly a Neo of five years ago would have saved that, but his slowing reflexes let him down today.

This was not going according to plan at all for the Phoenixes, who had to be expecting better after having claimed a cup for four out of their last six seasons, a record on par with the greatest Birds sides of yore. Now, they had to bag at least two goals to extend that record, something they had not exactly been particularly prolific at. Chong Yao Seng was deftly marshalled out of the danger zone by Aw Keng Chuan on their best counter thus far in the 36th minute, and it was instead Marzuki to make it three some four minutes on, as he attacked Egemen Dinçer Ferzan's cross fearlessly, and saw his header go in off Zarif's face.

Neo could not hide his disgust at this turn of events, as Grilled celebrated a 3-0 lead that would have raked in plenty for any brave punter who dared have a flutter on that pre-match. The half ended with the commentators quoting the sixty-to-one odds available, with player-coach Ng Yun Shi wasting no time in dishing out orders to his men. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw little improvement in the Phoenixes' prospects though, and Ng would substitute himself on for Mohd Fikri Abdul Hamid in midfield, in the hopes of turning fate around.

There would be scarce uptick in their attacking effectiveness with Chen Rong Feng being masterfully read by Hutter on the day, which meant that Chong was largely left to his own devices with Ferzan now also often onto him. Peh Li Han came on to add some energy from leftback in the 70th minute, which soon created a breakthrough for Chen in the middle, but he thrashed his right-footed finish onto the crossbar and over. Dimitris Germanakos might have gotten a finger to that one, but young Japanese referee Kazuya Yuasa saw nothing, and rejected the pleading for a corner by the Phoenix forwards.

Chen would soon be off for the 38 year-old legend Baihaqi Ilham Abd Rahim, but as in so many other areas of the pitch, experience would not prevail over energy today. Most of the Phoenix fans had recognized the inevitable long before Kazuya blew for the end, from how few audible protests there were, at the mere single minute of time added on.

    Galaxy Too Big
    Holding The Hat
    Brothers In Crime
    Fire In The North
    Milan Ganking
    Luxury Tax
    Really Getting Going
    Approximately Four
    Dogs Tread Heavily
    Not In My Home
2016-08-01 00:37:41
anonymous: Thanks for the special mention :) I would just like to expre...
2015-08-17 18:50:02
anonymous: excellent read as always!- Yjorn
2015-06-13 03:08:41
anonymous: Rasha say
2014-12-14 16:56:39
gilbertlim: well, it seemed like that.
2014-12-12 18:26:33
anonymous: I didn't play a 4-5-2
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