Cowed By Region
Che, Cheung Swansongs
Che Harun bin Sabtu
and Cheung Huel-sheng
would not end up on the winning side in their testimonial match, with the Birds' selection barely mustering a resistance against Muscovite visitors Moscow Region. With Israeli midfield Number Seven Nadav Makovitzki pulling the strings, they controlled the proceedings against a despondent-looking Grilled selection on a fittingly grey day.
The Birds would operate defensively in a 4-5-1 that none of the players appeared to like, going by the few times Leong Wan Kang
would be fed the ball. It didn't even improve the backline all that much either, as the extra men made coordinating the usual offside trap more tricky than usual. This was evident four minutes in, when Hilal Bakhtiar
was slow to step up, which put the quick-thinking Mehmet Mülayim onside and in a great position to hit one past Krystian Rykowski
- which he did.
There was not very much that could be said about the football, which at times resembled a raw struggle. Certainly, the visiting team had the better of it, as Makovitzki together with Antonio Bono ruled the skies on high balls. Tian Yonghang
cut a sorry figure as he dragged himself around the muddy field, and despite his best efforts, Moscow Region would double their lead in the 37th minute. Bono would latch on to his own nod-down as Qassem Madaini
lost his footing, and clip it neatly across Rykowski.
Grilled fans looked rightly bored as referee Miguel López blew for half-time, but perked up when the specially-commissioned cheerleading squad took to the field. Their routine brightened the mood significantly before head coach Djan Bacelar
made his entrance with the main characters of the day, who received commemorative plaques before saying a few words in turn.
This would not save the Birds from another forty-five minutes of on-field torture, though, with Moscow Region proving more than willing to rain on the parade, despite there having been more than enough of that. Rykowski distinguished himself with a reaction stop off Timothy Marchese, and then forced countryman Benedykt Zdrot to put it wide in a one-on-one.
The friendly was spluttering to an end, when Belgian Kobe Keirsmaekers added a pinch of spice. Rinor Isufi
had not had a particularly enjoyable day, having being shackled adequately by Keirsmaekers throughout, and things finally came to a head when he ate a full-on barge from his marker. Fortunately, his teammates could see the signs of an imminent explosion, and Bacelar hurriedly got Isufi subbed off; as for Keirsmaekers, he would not stay on either, as he received a red card for that challenge.
It did at least grant the Birds an opening, as Remco van der Ban
pumped the free-kick right where the freshly-entered Low wanted it. Of course, the day being what it was, Krzesimir Wardziński dived splendidly to deflect Low's stinging effort, and Moscow Region then made it three-nil on the counter with Mülayim lashing Timothy Marchese's cross in on the go.
Bacelar finally got Che Harun bin Sabtu
and Cheung Huel-sheng
on for their last run-out in Grilled green two minutes from the end, and the brief sight of the Jurong born-and-bred duo taking their posts for a final turn, made the whole exercise worthwhile.