ArSenal U21 kept up their hoodoo spell over the Birds, as they rescued a win at the Home Of De Young Guns, when it looked as if they had little right to do so. Then again, they had made their own luck in a manner, and had Spanish custodian Alfredo Corrales to thank for preserving their position, after a torrid start in which Grilled threatened to run away with it.
The hosts were searching for their first league victory of the season, after a tough fixture list that had seen them thrown up against newbies are newbies and then Changi Genius in succession. Not only that, they came into the game on the back of a second straight loss, to United Warrior Team in the Singapore Cup, but they did catch a break with Corrales found to have fully recovered from being accidentally nutted by the Warriors' Felix Emminger then.
For Grilled, with no reported personnel concerns, the question was whether they could shake off the shackles that ArSenal had imposed upon them. A 2-5 loss at this very groud had destroyed their excellent momentum in last campaign's title race, with the then-hobbled Birds having no answer to ArSenal's invention. On the surface, it would look better for the Birds this time, though, as they would no longer have to make do with Tian Yonghang
and Zhao Jing Wei
- who had been exposed only too often - this time round.
And they acted the part. Unsparing on the uptake, the Birds gave an ArSenal side trying to incorporate several new pieces plenty to think about. The departure of midfielders Musa Bin Abdul Al-Nasser and Emilio Guzmán had done them no favours, but there was a bright spot in 22 year-old Jamaican arrival Delroy Solomon, who has become a fast favourite in the heart of defence. Even he could no do it all himself, however, and Corrales had to scramble to claw Neeraj Muthyala
's fine fifth-minute thunderbolt aside for a corner.
ArSenal were scattered at this point in the game, and the modest collection of visiting supporters recognized the opportunity, regaling the team with lusty chants. Grilled were especially strong on the wings, and it was from thence their their breakthrough came, after sixteen minutes. Cyril Künzler
vaulted Gustav Vraštil's all-too-obvious sliding tackle, and a delayed return pass from Kalki Parvathaneni
saw Künzler with the space he needed to drag it past Corrales.
There would be a brief ruckus upon the restart, as Neeraj Muthyala
swung a boot into Leo de Moreira's midsection as the two battled for a poorly-flighted ball out, but Gál Verebes regained control by decisively booking Muthyala. A couple of bad scares for the under-siege hosts then happened, with Yuta Nakakita
smashing a powerful effort against the crossbar, several minutes before Italian playmaker Piersandro Patarnello nearly cooked his own goose trying to run the ball out of his own box. Luckily for him, Moey Xin Seng
's finishing abilities left much to be desired.
From there, Solomon's remorseless takedown of Islom Davlatov
before the Grilled striker managed to work his way inside the penalty area proved to be the catalyst for ArSenal's revival. Grilled were only too impatient to capitalize on their edge, which left them without recourse after de Moreira hit a crossfield clearance some fifty yards. He might not have meant it, but the bounce was just what Isaac Altefähre required to wrest control from Yuta Nakakita
, and next came a subtle deflection off Hoàng Trung Quá
that confirmed the equaliser.
Though they were slowly losing their ascendancy, Grilled retained a slight advantage, and worked some neat patterns down the flanks. This resulted in a corner in the 35th minute when Florus Romijn
knocked it out off Melanio Uon-Aso's shins, and Künzler bent it in towards the near post, where Neeraj Muthyala
popped up with a snap header, before Corrales could set himself properly.
While the match had shaped up to be a blowout for the Birds quite often, even some way into the second half, ArSenal somehow kept themselves afloat through Corrales's fast hands, and overall bad shooting instinct from the Birds' front line. Moey was a big culprit, as he displayed a disappointing propensity to seek a teammate to pass to, rather than just having a go at it.
It was setting up for a rally from the home team, whose captain Isaac Altefähre was certainly trying to make happen. They had some trouble linking defence up with attack, though Turkish defender Kazım Çavsar caught the imagination with some far-ranging runs. Nothing came of those, save a booking for Romijn after he jumped prematurely into Charles Lao trying to intercept.
Perhaps reasoning that the bulk of the danger had passed, Djan Bacelar
put Yuki Irie
on for Yuta Nakakita
after that, with instructions to slow the game down. While Yuki might not be to blame for what happened afterwards, this would still go down as one of Bacelar's worst decisions.
The Grilled vice-captain had barely gotten into position, when ArSenal dealt the sucker-punch. A contested throw-in was carried up through the middle by a succession of ArSenal players, and Çavsar's willingness to roam finally paid off, as the ball fell to him after Hoàng Trung Quá
put in the initial block. Valentin Batâr
got a touch in, but it wasn't enough.
It then all went to pieces for the Birds, as the goal completely returned the home team to life. Grilled were now the ones battling to see the game through, and Yuki Irie
himself become a casualty, lasting all of five minutes before being taken out by Najib Hafiz's unrestrained clip to his knee. Gene Filippone
was still jogging over when Piersandro Patarnello completed the reversal, crashing it in accompanied by an air of inevitability.