|Season 81||W||0 - 6||Tournament (Playoffs)|
Shadows Left In Lurch
Ready And Not Waiting
would finally get his long-awaited maiden goal for Grilled Birds on his sixth start for the club, with the latest incarnation of Shadow Chaser(R) SC taken down a peg. The Woodlands club had been refounded four times previously already under this ownership, with the longest-lived of those plying their trade for about twelve seasons between Seasons 45 and 56, over in Pasir Ris. A community-run version of that outfit is still around, but the official mantle has long been passed over to this set of players and staff, with the board having become quasi-famous for leveraging their right to change leagues, for each of the past five seasons.
That had landed them in III.1 after their latest promotion from Division Four, but if they were angling for some advantage in the move, they might have been mistaken. A rousing opening day win over tpyers aside, they have not done especially well. While a 1-1 draw with Controlar might be considered credible, another one-all at Krattene left them dangling in mid-table, and that before being wiped 0-4 by Phantasm Hotspurs, with Dutch defender Talib Umman suspended midweek for a red. Umman would be back today, but his Romanian partner Florin Tarara remained out from injury, which had Turkish reserve Şevki Deniz start in their accustomed 3-5-2.
All the attention would be sucked up by Birds debutant Ha Qicai
in any case, all the more given that he strode onto the field with the captain's armband, indicating that the dressing room had been won over by Tian Yonghang
's recommendation. Otherwise, it was Grilled's standard league lineup, with the soon-to-be-obvious deviation of forcing play wide. This was clearly targeting the Chasers' trademark narrow back three, and paid dividends early enough with Orest Tokarz
attacking Brian Reddy
's fifteenth minute cross from the right with venom - and success.
That first goal would be followed by a second from a quite similar delivery, two minutes later, with Phua Ming Xin
just about outjumping Umman for this one. The architect for both was, it went without saying, Brian Reddy
, whose full range of talents were finally on tap today. He had been a formidable presence in his previous appearances, of course, but those had not nearly showcased his full repertoire - as Italian left-sided centreback Vincenzo Rossetto was belatedly realizing.
Rossetto was left with little choice but to block Joe Reece
's quick free-kick attempt the next minute to prevent a simple conversion by Phua, and being on a yellow was something of a delayed death sentence for him against the marauding Reddy. Neither standing off the star winger, nor getting up close to him, was anywhere near a foolproof approach given his form, and Rossetto tried the latter in the 25th minute, only to swiftly regret it. Reddy segued his pull-up for a cross into a lightning-fast dribble without missing a beat, and hit a memorable first goal between the legs of Polish goalkeeper Julian Pilichiewicz.
looked impatient to get in on the action, all the more as he had to be theoretically first in line as Grilled's right-sided forward, but he would first be hauled up for a silly booking in the 27th, for manhandling Shogo Yamaoka after losing out in a frenzied touchline struggle for the ball. Reece would not be denied for much longer, though, and once Brian Reddy
inevitably hooked it in from the right flank once again, the Welshman would thunder it home, after a rather big deflection off a defender - not that Reece cared.
The visitors meandered their way to half-time mostly thanks to Reddy finally running slightly low on gas, what with four goals surely being more than enough to guarantee the points already. Tian would perk the midfield up by putting Chia Kwang Tse
on for the underperforming Chad Thach
, who to be fair could not have been expected to compete with Reddy's sheer brilliance. Şevki Deniz would be taken off by Khoo Sze Keng on Shadow Chasers' part, having reminded of why he had not made the first-choice XI, with 24 year-old Swede Cameron Currier given his break.
Currier did indeed comport himself better than Deniz had, with his improved mobility being instrumental in nipping several Grilled pushes in the bud, particularly on Phua Ming Xin
's deep cross in the 55th minute that he cleared just as Tokarz was coming in. Even Currier's dodgy tackle on Reece three minutes later had its uses once Belgian referee Benny Moerenhout looked the other way, as it set Thom Godling off on his first really dangerous run up the left in ages. Age meant that he had to release it earlier than might have been optimal, though, and Eugenio Familiari couldn't get the angle he needed on that pass.
That stop reflected well on new captain Ha Qicai
, who had hardly put a foot wrong since stepping onto The Cooking Pot's pitch, not that he had been tested all that much. It was soon back to the Birds mashing the buttons, and the underused Federico Parada
would get some extra time on the ball, as Grilled mixed it up. That had Azmil Rida Mohammad Hazim pulled out wide in the 71st minute for an unwise challenge that brought him the game's third yellow, as Parada continued the good work with a classy delivery towards Joe Reece
after 77 minute, that sadly brushed the top of the bar.
It was getting decidely a chore for the Chasers, who had no real hope of turning it around long before then, and the stoppage that happened when Umman crumpled upon a hard shoulder barge with five minutes remaining, was probably equal parts concerning and welcome for them. The match would resume with Phua Ming Xin
taking the temperature up a notch with a blazing raid as Lim An Keng
won the drop ball, but Pilichiewicz dived well for the save. There would be scenes at the corner flag as Rossetto tried to keep it in, only to be sent off for a second yellow when he lashed out at Reddy, having lost it to him in the end.
That was also the last that the fans would see of Ha Qicai
for some days, with the defender striding off to loud applause, having helped maintain Grilled's clean sheet quite meticulously indeed. Damian Hutter
didn't seem to begrudge his likely backup status as he high-fived Ha on his entrance, before looking frazzled as the visitors made their play for a consolation, with Marcelinho Auriani making a great run up their right. Li Jie Ming appeared set to severely test Dimitris Germanakos
, but held his shot a second too long, allowing Hutter to finally get across.
The final few minutes would have plenty of action packed in for the ones who stayed, beginning with the Chasers' efforts, and then another goal for Joe Reece
as he brought it past the last man himself for 5-0. Teo Chuan Yong
would then get a bit of time on the clock, as Aw Keng Chuan
departed having served well, and acting captain Brian Reddy
would then have his nastier side come to the fore again, as he got booked for driving the ball into the gallery, having failed to stop it going out. Injury time had Orest Tokarz
line it up from eight yards, only to balloon it.