We Go Up!
A season ago, a lacklustre Grilled side had the door to the S-League shut firmly upon them by a rampant FC RaZer Infernus. Nine of the eleven who started that dark day were picked against FC Tenochtitlán, the two exceptions being Au-Yong Siu-Yue
, plagued by injuries this season, for the vastly more experienced Ma Dai-Lin
; and second-stringer Joe Stern
, replacing the man brought in to usurp his position as main striker, Ulf Hjortlind
. By these considerations alone it was in no way a stronger side than that which fell so horribly then, and Tenochtitlán by all accounts were a side on par with RaZer. Few fans dared hope for much.
There was scant consolation in that FC Tenochtitlán had sold strongly in the transfer markets in the past month, with fringe players like Steve Morris, Fernando Galan and Shane Koeners leaving. Aivo Lond and Paul Steinicke were two big names who went too, Jean-Pierre Martin being the sole incoming footballer. The nucleus of the team was very much intact though, and former Ukranian national defender Artem Romanov's arrival two days ago boded badly for Grilled's quest.
Grilled refused to alter their style to deal with the Warriors' superlative midfield, and predictably were driven back nevertheless by their command of the area. Had that been combined with a true scorer, Grilled would have been dead and buried within minutes of the start. Thankfully, the Warriors did not have prolific strikers, with Rodger Revelant's six league goals leading his club. Luis Alcántara
lived up to his captain's armband, marshalling and tackling fearlessly. Liviu Oprea produced the inevitable opener in the nineteenth minute, as a good first touch set up a rising half-volley that sped into the middle of goal just under the crossbar.
Grilled showed no signs of surrender just yet, and Au-Yong Siu-Yue
exemplified the spirit of youth as he raced down the left, losing control more often than not but clearly uncowed. A breakthrough came when he kept a mishit crossfield ball in, made good ground towards the Warriors' goal and tried to take on Hungarian defender Róbert Könyves. Könyves read Siu-Yue's feints easily and dispelled his threat, but Siu-Yue had done enough as Kek-Tjiang was right behind in support. Carrying on where the winger had left off, Kek-Tjiang found the gap between Könyves and Romanov in the middle and chipped bin Ghazali beautifully.
It was evident that two days is insufficient for a new sweeper to gel with his teammates, and that the Warriors' twenty year-old goalie was a bunch of nerves. Grilled attacked without hesitation, and the Warriors' midfield lost some of its potency as Martin was forced into a defensive position. Joe Stern
, never shy about shooting from distance, zinged one that went wide past the post. That gave his colleagues extra heart, but Oprea gave Grilled a quick dose of reality when he combined with Wästertorp down the middle and found the outer edge of the right post in a brilliant move. Bao-Tam responded with a savvy goal kick that Ju-Hau held off a defender to win. He kicked out to Stern, who saw that Romanov was not covering properly and risked a direct pass to Martinsson. The Swedish assassin was first to the ball, and a deft turn-and-shoot put it into goal.
The disparity between the Warriors' great midfield and inferior defence held them back, while the balanced Grilled team, comfortable with each other, captured the initiative. They kept flooding the middle with personnel in the hope of getting a decisive third goal. In the process, Asher Stanton
felled Romanov, escaping with a yellow card but also making an already shaky backline even more vulnerable. The Warriors, thin on the bench, responded by placing the skills of Martin and Wästertorp in the service of the defence, which dealt with Grilled's offensives but also left themselves without any bite. Prolonged negativity caused havoc in the mentality of the Warriors, and Grilled forged ahead. Johan Dewilde
's contribution was a teasing snap-shot into the side netting after he found himself free down the touchline. With ten minutes on the clock, Martinsson sealed Grilled's destiny with a graceful shot off Stanton's long inbound throw.