The Dream Is Over
Kampong Overturn Holders
Grilled's Cup streak of 27 consecutive victories, and their march towards a third Singapore Cup, were both broken by a solid Kampong Dreamer team which always believed they could do it. The Division Four club were at least a match for Grilled's blossoming midfield despite having their home advantage largely nullified by the influx of Grilled fans for the derby, and deserved their narrow win.
Grilled had not fielded an especially weak side moreover, with Ahmed Abed-Sulaiman
and the entire first team defence out in force. Bukhari Abd Hamid
and Lee Jie Siong
kept their places on the flanks, however, and it was probably their lack of steel that prevented Grilled from finding their footing in midfield.Quah Han Kok
, handed the captaincy for the day, did not exert enough influence either and ended up trying to lead by example. Having already lifted the Cup twice despite his tender age, Quah was also the most affected by the defeat, and looked so miserable after the finish that even the normally sharp-tongued Abed-Sulaiman was moved to give him a consolatory pat on the back.
The result could have gone either way, and on a better day Grilled might have scraped by, as they had done several times during their winning campaigns. Kampong made it a defensive match despite also employing a dynamic 3-5-2, with S$5.3 million rated Israeli central defender Boris Ellsworth in uncompromising form.
Ellsworth, who has had stints in Canada, Sweden, Holland and Spain, completely shackled Grilled's strike force with some help from his skipper, 32 year-old Turkish rightback Cefa Mahmur, and bull-like Swedish leftback Bengt Wickén. Grilled were limited to one real chance in the first half, as Kadak got on the end of Bukhari's reverse pass. He got a clean shot off, but Kampong keeper Ricardo Gandara scrambled it off his line.
Nil-nil at half-time, and the Grilled support was hardly concerned. There was a fair share of friendly banter between them and their hosts' fans, who were none too displeased with the proceedings either. Most spectators probably expected Grilled to turn on the style in the second half, knock in a couple of goals, and trade handshakes.
Instead, Kampong Bridge saw drama of a totally different bent. Robert Rusu hoisted an innocous high ball into the Grilled box, and local favourite Soh Chee Qiang went up for it together with big Fabian Bona
. Soh fell forward, Bona headed it firmly away, and the whistle went although Soh had made no protest. Penalty, referee Christophe Desplat said.
That set the stadium buzzing, as it was a contentious decision. Bengt Wickén, Kampong's resident penalty kick taker, now had his chance to write his name into his club's annals - or at the least, gain some glory by scoring against the defending champions.
Standing against him however was Egyptian legend Ahmed Abed-Sulaiman
, capped at all levels for his home nation, and who had twice bailed Grilled out of the game-deciding spot kicks. Five Chinablack players could not beat him from the spot. Could the 23 year-old Wickén?
In the end, the fact that the shooter holds all the initiative was proven. Wickén kept his head down, evidently having decided early which side he was going to go for, regardless of the goalie's positioning. He hit it good and hard, low to the left, and Sulaiman shot off in the opposite direction. 1-0.
With a little more than half an hour more to go, Kampong suddenly realised that they were on the brink of a gigantic upset. The game went into overdrive then, as Grilled surged in desperation, and Kampong defended with no less vigour. First to feel the effects was Terkel Borup
, who was felled from the back by Argentine midfielder Camilo Clementz.
Clementz got a yellow card and stayed on, leaving Grilled's callow midfield with an increasingly uphill task. With no member older than 23 years, they sorely missed the experience and leadership needed to deal with these situations. Technically, they might have been superior to the Kampong threesome, but passes started going awry and Quah in particular began to crack under the responsibility of organizing a flagging side.
The minutes continued inexorably ticking away, and in the final seconds Quah was still chasing the ball, and the game, like a madman. However, his peers had begun to tire more than the seasoned Kampong lineup, and it was just too late to make a real difference. Grilled Birds were out in the sixth round.