Brian Loses Brain
III.15 opponents FC Air Hydrous gave the Birds a solid scare in the second round of the Singapore Cup, although this had to be accounted an improvement for the Birds, after they went 1-5 down against the same in the Consolation Cup three seasons back. It would be a brand-new and not quite as good Hydrous side, to be fair to them, and moreover one without S$12.1 million Hungarian star signing Adam Bartoń. Jan Olsson did start in midfield as Spanish head coach Valentín Ortiz tasked Hydrous to play within their limitations, and their busy pressing efforts would nearly pay off.
The Birds were not going all out either, as Chan Ze Han
returned captaining a side half composed of reserves; Brian Reddy
made his much-awaited return to the right, with no news of why he was missing from the squad on Sunday, and he would soon be engaged in trying to break down a solid mass of Hydrous defenders. Chan Ze Han
found former national U-20 goalkeeper Fong Kim Yeng moonlighting as a sweeper, and nipped past him in the fourth minute, only to be taken down together with the ball by Kumaran Iyengar.
No penalty would be awarded then, but Estonian referee Helar Kullamaa would indicate that it was a close-run decision. Hydrous were keeping their focus on destroying play, and this single-mindedness would have them keep a technically-superior Grilled team at bay. Young Angolan fullback Amândio Sabouga would be booked for time-wasting already after just fifteen minutes, and although Reddy created the occasional half-chance, such as the one that Chan got onto the end of before chipping wide in the 23rd, there were all too few of those.
Grilled's moment finally came near the half-hour mark, as their slow grind up the centre cumulated in Ibnou Balde
taking a pop under heavy watch from up close, and lifting it off the crossbar. This had Gandhik Chitre
very obviously blocked off by Silvano Flütsch as he tried to reach the rebound, however, and Kullamaa would not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Teo Chuan Yong
, who had filled in at centreback, took charge after a short exchange with Chan Ze Han
, and nonchalently knocked it into the roof of the net.
This was problematic for Hydrous, who had shown no indication that they were able to threaten Dimitris Germanakos
yet, and indeed they did not even have a recognized forward here. Half-time came and went, and took with it a not very match-fit Teo, who would be replaced by the exceedingly-experienced but increasingly-immobile Bhavya Panigrahi
. Hydrous continued with their stolid pressing, and by the 71st minute, Grilled would only have another shot to the bar - this one by Brian Reddy
- to show for their work.
And then, there were scenes at The Cooking Pot, as the visitors struck back. Having barely been tested for nearly eighty minutes, Grilled's midfield were caught napping as opposing captain Gabriel Nakamura made his move, and Panigrahi was barely able to slow his advance as he closed on the box. 19 year-old right winger Leong Eng Heng called for it as he sprinted inside, and the requested assist was made with Leong hitting an excellent first-time effort, curling it into the far corner to level it 1-1.
The Birds didn't seem pleased at the prospect of extra time, but such worries would not last very long, as they got a second penalty within three minutes. This would be less certain than the first, with Suriname defender Jaipal Yadav apparently not knowing much about where the ball was when he smacked his arm into it on a quick turn, but it had to be given by letter of the law. Chan Ze Han
stepped up this time, and after brief contemplation, rolled it down the middle as Iyengar moved too early.
This was what Grilled had come for all the while, and The Pot would finally see Hydrous try to attack in earnest, which they were not too well-versed at. The Birds' concerns about Reddy's game personality only continued to grow, however, from his reaction after Kullamaa cautioned him for a late - and frankly, unneeded - tackle on Siarhej Kasperovich in the 86th minute. Incensed given that he had come away with the ball, Reddy proceeded to harangue the referee, who would not wait for long before raising the yellow card again - and delaying Reddy's league debut for at least another week.