Grilled Birds 3 - 2 Phantasm Hotspurs
League, Season 8712 May 2024 04:30 HTT
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Grilled BirdsPhantasm Hotspurs
Gústav Thoroddsen (4)
Brian Reddy (5)
Brian Reddy (68)
Mohd Zabir Azim (20)
Masyhur Zulfadhli (73)

Season 87W4 - 5League
Season 86L3 - 5League
Season 86D1 - 1League
Season 84L6 - 0League
Season 84W3 - 2League

Perfect Fourteen
Phantasms Of Old

Grilled Birds capped a flawless season by dethroning defending champions Phantasm Hotspurs on the final day, to secure automatic promotion back to Division Two. Hotspurs had been a bogey side for the Birds over the past few seasons, where Grilled had failed to beat them thrice in a raw. Today was in fact not an exception as Hotspurs made it much more of a contest than it was on paper, but in the end, the Birds prevailed.
With the knowledge that a win, or indeed a draw, would see Grilled go up without the possible heartache of a qualifier, Tian Yonghang would pull out all the stops today. The near-optimal training form of the squad, as reported by numerous observers over the past week, had Tian spoilt for choice, and in the end not even Chad Thach's recent epic performances could see him back in the starting XI. Lim An Keng, Chia Kwang Tse and Hwang Teck Fu were the chosen, with Egemen Dinçer Ferzan getting the nod over vice-captain Federico Parada on the wing, a sign of just how competitive the battle for spots had become. A notable innovation was then Mohd Marzuki Khairul in defence alongside Ha Qicai, which the commentator noted was a bold novelty in such an important game.

As for the visitors, they went for former youth international Masyhur Zulfadhli heading up a deep-lying 4-5-1, despite needing a big win to overhaul the Birds and steal the title. Hotspurs boss Yee Tse Tong had acknowledged that trying to outplay Grilled on their own turf without the correct personnel was tantamount to suicide, and from what was put out, his coaching staff had recognized that they did not in fact have the right players for that. Thus, they had pinned their hopes on Muzaffar Fadhlurrahman supporting Zulfadhli from midfield, and the Birds self-destructing somehow, possibly after conceding early.

That was largely wishful thinking, definitely, and instead it was Grilled who sprung the trap from the beginning. All eyes were on probable Gústav Thoroddsen for days entering the big game, but for all the attention, the redoubtable Icelander needed just four minutes to leave an indelible mark on the contest. Experienced former Pearl Divers centreback Abhishek Mundra had resolved to give Thoroddsen no breathing room at all, but when Reddy's delivery came in, all it took was the simplest of feints one way, for Thoroddsen to open up just enough room to rise for the header - and score.

If young goalkeeper Looi Beng Ze was stunned by that, it was only getting worse - and fast. Yee would be on the sidelines waving at his players to keep their shape, and heads, but none of that mattered once Zulfadhli's attempted surprise dribble from kick-off was stopped. Chia and Hwang would tear through to the penalty area exchanging quickfire short passes against their flatfooted Hotspurs counterpart, with Hwang electing to feather it wide right for the final ball. Brian Reddy, having just notched an assist, was bursting for confidence, and he all but dared Rafiuddin Indra Putra to make contact on his twisting dribble, before potting it between Looi and his near post.

That was a classic one-two knockout, and it was to Yee's credit that his team did not crumble totally after the twin setback. Of course, with Hotspurs now needed to score six times to prevail, even the staunchest of their fans must have known that their goose was cooked. Admittedly, that was no reason to just roll over, but it was all Hotspurs could do to keep Grilled out right now, what with the Birds attacking with intent and flow.

Latvian referee Arnulfs Bergmanis endeared himself to the home support in the 19th minute, when he awarded a penalty for what seemed the barest of handballs by Kwek Rong Wei, which was bitterly protested by the ex-Singapore U-20 defender. Kwek would have the last laugh here, as Phua Ming Xin got far too casual trying to chip from the spot, which developed into a full-blooded Hotspurs counter - and Mohd Zabir Azim running free at the other end. To conclude this farce, it was instead Dimitris Germanakos who got lobbed by Zabir as the finisher, which brought sarcastic chants for Phua throughout the rest of the match from the away end.

The one-goal lead looked fairly shaky for the Birds here, and Tian Yonghang would ruthlessly pare the under-performers at half-time. Neither Lim An Keng nor Egemen Dinçer Ferzan had done much wrong, really, but their contributions had been iffy too. Chad Thach for one would throw himself into his role with a wild abandon, to the delight of the Birds fans; he wasn't shy about making low-percentage shots either, as when he whipped it at goal with pace from some twenty-five yards, 56 minutes in. Looi didn't seem to know if that was meant to be a shot or a cross, but he was visibly relieved when it flashed across his goalmouth, and out.

This period was far more even than the first half was, with the visitors getting more adventurous in the face of Grilled's inability to make clear openings. Hotspurs were happy to accept free-kicks near the Birds' box in exchange for developing moves, and after a prolonged setup in the 60th minute, Kwek Rong Wei bent it inches wide of Germanakos' top corner. Chad Thach was at it again five minutes later as he worked the left side diligently, and he would get a piece of the crossbar this time, once more from his right boot.

While the home fans were justly confident enough to sing about the title by now, the result of this match was still very much in the air, at least until Brian Reddy made it 3-1 in the 68th minute. Not many would contest Reddy being Grilled's best pure winger despite the availability of Parada and Ferzan, but goal output was one of the things that he had never been known for. There was little else he could have reasonably done after shimmying into the box with ball at feet, though, and while Looi got a hand onto the rammed strike, it wasn't enough to keep the ball from hitting the back of his net.

That was soon followed by a concerning incident, that had Rafiuddin Indra Putra fall heavily on his back after an aerial duel against Orest Tokarz. The match was immediately stopped for Rafiuddin to receive attention, after which he was stretchered off. Tan Meng Hock filled in, and Gústav Thoroddsen demonstrated scarce sympathy as he hassled Mundra off the ball straight from the restart, only to volley it wide. The hissing from the away fans would transform into cheers as the instant counterattack was polished off by Masyhur Zulfadhli, with Thoroddsen joining Phua as the target of their mocking chants - not that he seemed to mind.

Grilled would understandably slow the pace nearly to a crawl in the final five minutes, with Hotspurs mostly acquiescing, leaving the rare holdouts being met by Olé exclamations as they chased shadows fruitlessly. There was also one final substitution for Tian Yonghang to cash in, and there were no surprises when a 39 year-old Chan Ze Han was honoured, with him exchanging a long embrace with Orest Tokarz upon being called on.

    Inmigrante Turned Aside
    Nord Nod
    Equally Vaxxed
    Perfect Fourteen
    It Gets Exciting
    Rocket Agogo
    Kruta Guts
    On Camera
    Abandoning The Past
    Getting Away
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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