Same Old Story
Men Against Boys
The Birds were once more brought down to earth by persistent bugbears -= Manchester United =-, who improved their all-time record against Grilled to 6-1 with yet another wipeout. The exit of withdrawn forward Adriano Hausladen to AtZe Mailand did not reduce their edge by much if any - same as the adding of reserve midfielder Bradley Yang to the lineup.
On paper, Grilled had to have the upper hand, particularly with Yang being near completely untried at this level. United however remained almost willfully positive, as they kept with their attacking 2-5-3. Then again, given their head-to-head record in this case, they might have felt that it was a safe bet.
Despite that, they had to deal with some dicey situations from their visitors, as the Birds swung again and again. Somehow, United's gung-ho attitude coupled with ad-hoc defensive measures saved them from the worst of it, and Zhao Jing Wei
could only bemoan his bad fortune when his perfect follow-through in the 16th minute left Sylvain Barning rooted, only to thump into the goalpost.
It was the complete opposite for the hosts, whose few touches turned into gold almost immediately. Valentin Bugaev, long a tormentor of Gene Filippone
, one more got the better of the Swiss with a little jig. With Filippone losing his footing as he tried to turn on the spot, Bugaev was not about to wait, and scooted by to roll it past Wong Tian Han
Just as the Birds were re-grasping the reins on the half-hour, after some fumbling, disaster struck. There was a moment of total confusion on who was supposed to stay back, as Grilled's midfielders outwitted themselves rotating their positions, leaving Yang of all people free to pick Valery Dymnich out. The Estonian's pace had been worrying even Low Aik Jia
all day, and with Low otherwise engaged, there was nobody remotely quick enough to stop Dymnich from making it two.
From these developments, the cynical away fans were barely moved when Dymnich simply sped through and fed former Algerian national U-20 forward Aziz Djeghbala the third on a platter, or even when a frazzled Ling Fuquan
tried to overcompensate with a telegraphed tackle three minutes later, giving Markus Närhi one of the easiest sidesteps he will ever have at the pro level, before an admittedly excellent drive that had Wong beaten for the fourth time on the day.
The Birds' players were losing it as the taunts came from the gallery, and Low Aik Jia
put himself in the referee's bad books by petulantly kicking the ball aside after a free-kick was awarded against him. This did ironically give Tian Yonghang
the time to impose some order, however, and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
had a fair try go marginally high before the break.
It was a determined Grilled side that came out for the second half, but judging from how Barning got a hand to Chow Ying Lee
's brilliant dipper that would have gone in nine out of ten times, it was just not their day. The Birds soldiered on grimly, for all that, and their doggedness was finally rewarded in the 59th minute, as Wong Ping Shun
railroaded in a low cross that Chow feathered over Barning with a dinky heel flick.
Sadly, the nascent rally was choked off by Bugaev, who seemed to have gained a psychological advantage of some sort over the Grilled defenders. They backed off him warily in the 71st minute, despite superior numbers, and then fell prey to the most straightforward of one-twos played with Dumitru Coca.
Not even the normally-stoic Tian could keep his cool at this collapse, and with the contest all but lost, the Grilled captain vented with an ill-tempered lunge on Friedger Hengen that was jeered by the crowd. He did get his own back somewhat, tapping it in after an indirect free-kick was lifted into the United box and pinged about crazily, but there would not be a lap of honour today for the Birds stalwart.