Defenders Pay Due
Seldom has a home draw felt so great, as the Birds turned a two-goal deficit around in the last five minutes, to preserve their unbeaten record in the league. This came after ArSenal U21 had defied pre-match expectations by schooling Grilled - if helped by a couple of injuries to key personnel - for most of the proceedings, with their Italian attacking midfielder Piersandro Patarnello making possibly his most definitive contribution of his career thus far.
Few were counting against Grilled continuing their winning run in III.15, given the visitors' comparatively sketchy record; while Patarnello's partnership with Musa Bin Abdul Al-Nasser had been gaining some plaudits, German strikers Altefähre had Höckelsberger had yet to find their form. The Birds on the other hand had been flying high with their new wingers, their Cup exits notwithstanding, and the only change made was Chu Xin Lee
in for Islom Davlatov
, who was reported to have caught a light flu.
There was definitely nothing to complain about the start that they made. The Birds responded brightly to their supporters' call for positivity, and Florus Romijn
bullied his merry way past young Charles Lao in the third minute. Gene Filippone
, coming in on the overlap, proved himself very useful as ArSenal scrambled to shore up their right wing, and he sprung a surprise by electing to shoot instead of cross. Goalkeeper Alfredo Corrales wasn't ready for that, and could only block the drive into his own net.
There were warning signs of a rout as an intrepid Grilled midfield tore into their opponents, but this would be interrupted as something else got torn - Neeraj Muthyala
's inner thigh muscles. The eager Number Four stretched himself beyond his limits in intercepting Gustav Vraštil's ball down the line, and although Christopher Mauget
was raring to go, the trainee Frenchman was a significant downgrade in the position.
This was the break that Patarnello and company had been waiting for, as the Birds adapted by restricting themselves to safer, slower interpassing. Gene Filippone
hit a free-kick into the wall in the 24th, and on the ensuing counterthrust, Valentin Batâr
just about warded Isaac Altefähre's swerving strike onto the crossbar. It wasn't enough, sadly, as Patarnello duly volleyed the rebound into the now-unguarded goal.
The celebrations were cut short after ArSenal discovered that Kazım Çavsar had gone and stayed down, and replays revealed that Mohammad Ramli Saliman
had somehow kneed him full in the solar plexus, as they made for the rebound. The referee was onto it, and dealt Saliman his third yellow of the season, which will see him sit the return game out. As for Çavsar, he would take his time getting back to his feet, which suited his team just fine.
It was ArSenal who would hit the ground running for the second half, and Patarnello submitted his claim to fame with an incredible run down the right side. Höckelsberger could very well have gone for it himself, after receiving the layoff to take Hoàng out, but he chose to tap it back to Patarnello instead. Batâr had committed himself, which meant another effortless goal for the snazzy Italian.
His strengths were not confined to the scoring arena either, as he began owning the open ground too. Then again, he was slightly fortunate to stay on after his full-blooded challenge on Florus Romijn
went awry. Out-of-favour Ang Leong Kum
would resume his role on the left, and with little improvement seen, Djan Bacelar
made his last roll of the dice, taking Filippone out for Jérémy Tarin
, and evidently instructing the Swiss to go for it whenever he could.
Instead, ArSenal would be the ones who would widen their lead. As another desperate Grilled attack fizzled out in the 84th minute, Musa Bin Abdul Al-Nasser recovered a blocked pass, and slid it through to Altefähre. He wasn't taking the result for granted, though, and cut Moey Xin Seng
down almost straight from the restart, just in case. This brought a clear yellow, and plenty of complaints from the aggrieved Moey.
Altefähre's worries proved well-founded, as the Birds turned out to have one heck of a finishing kick in their bag. ArSenal might have been guilty of taking it just a bit too easily as Cyril Künzler
wove a stuttering path up the right, but there was no mistaking the passion behind Hoàng Trung Quá
's charge to meet it at the far post. Indrek Käbin, who had been bowled over after standing his ground, tried to argue his case, but the goal - Hoàng's fourth in as many games - ultimately stood.
It was hard to imagine this being much more than a late booby prize, though, particularly with Mohammad Ramli Saliman
having hauled himself off, to have his knee looked at. He would not return for the remainder of the contest, effectively leaving Grilled with ten men, having used all their subs. Kalki Parvathaneni
hadn't gotten the brief, though, and after he won a corner, he then forced Corrales into a big save. Yuta Nakakita
wasn't about to let his efforts go to waste, though, and threw himself full-on into goal - taking the ball with him.
Those were two rather inelegant goals, to be honest, but the home fans definitely didn't mind, going by the reception that the team received. They nearly forgot that the match still had some seconds to run, though, and Patarnello almost spoilt the party single-handedly, towards the end of injury time. Batâr was quick on the uptake this time at least, and denied Patarnello his hat-trick.