The Real Deal
No, none of the extensive publicity surrounding Chan Ze Han
was unwarranted, going by how the precocious teenager induced today's three-nil result against -Blitz-. Kiril Gichev's team had not come into the contest second in the league by chance alone, but even the cautious 5-4-1 that had held Changi Genius and kept them unbeaten since opening week, would not stand up against the prodigy.
Although they did have Arrogancae in the coming Wednesday's Singapore Consolation Cup semifinals to consider, -Blitz- nevertheless held little back, with international wingmen Gagan Kamat and Ricardo Rey making for a quite unmatched left flank. Cyril Künzler
had spoken of being forced on the defensive before the game, and one could hardly have blamed him for thinking that.
Indeed, Grilled's main saving grace was that Kamat and Rey were bunched up together, and although George-Cosmin Tudorache did his best to make himself available, Yuki Irie
managed to cope with some hustling. The restless home crowd finally found cause to give voice eight minutes in, when Yuta Nakakita
spooned it over Antonio Hernalsteen after some fevered hacking at the ball. From the lookes of it, Yuta barely knew what was going on, but the fans behind the goal sure weren't complaining!
Being in the lead certainly helped the Birds settle, though the visitors refused to be disheartened either. The sheer quality on their wings meant that Grilled were put in some extremely dangerous positions, and Kalki Parvathaneni
saw himself ruled out of the return match, due to wilfully blocking Kamat's advance. The national winger was unplayable at times, and only the crossbar kept him from equalising, in the 16th minute.
-Blitz-'s blend of aggressive pressure when off the ball, and honest pace on it, appeared to have Grilled on the ropes... only for Chan to turn the tables. With all the attention fixed on Kamat and company, few remembered how quick Florus Romijn
could be when he wanted to be: very. After besting Ant Kearney on the outside, Romijn had enough of a lead to wind his run inwards, leaving the flat -Blitz- backline rushing to recover. They had yet to set themselves when Chan freed himself with a sudden halt, however, and he followed it up with the lightest of chips over the goalkeeper.
If any of the Grilled fans had remaining doubts about Chan, they must have been put to rest then. Of course, it was but a moment's vulnerability from -Blitz-, but his ability to sense it was quite immaculate. Moey Xin Seng
would be next in the book for a clumsy shove on a defender, before Chan showed that he was human after all, shooting too close to Antonio Hernalsteen on a quick breakaway on Tudorache's near-miss.
Presented with the scoreline, neutrals in the stadium might have been forgiven for guessing that the visitors were the ones in front, going by the sheer dynamism they had, particularly down their star-studded left. A failure to piece the final ball through would be their downfall, though, as plenty of exciting - if not quite tactically-sound - defending from the Birds preserved Valentin Batâr
's clean sheet.
-Blitz-'s dedication to the press was possibly not to their best advantage either, with Grilled having an excuse not to venture too far afield thanks to that. Montenegro midfielder Ognjen Trifunović busied himself making sure that the Birds could not produce freely, but in return, he found himself spending inordinately long periods holed up in his own half.
Still, the Birds could hardly relax despite that, not with Kamat perpetually one correct turn away from finding a goal. It was a full-time job in itself just containing him, and -Blitz- got the opening they had been looking for with twenty minutes to go. Daniel Ariton hit a header easily thirty yards forward, right where Tudorache had indicated. The Romanian forward knew exactly where he wanted his drive to go, but pulled it ever so slightly wide.
It was then Grilled's turn to come roaring out, and once again Florus Romijn
was the instigator. The visitors' overloading of their left flank unavoidably left an obvious weakness, but they had managed to adequately cover for it in most of their games thus far. Romijn was too good not to seize upon it eventually, though, and he slashed past all comers to plant a cross across goal, but agonizingly too late for Cyril Künzler
. No matter, Hoàng Trung Quá
had developed a nose for such happenings, and the Vietnamese defender brought up the rear for 3-0.
This was turning out to be a wonderful, wonderful debut for Chan Ze Han
, and it could have gotten even better, after Künzler left the ball to him, on Grilled's next free-kick. The Pole was such a credible threat that Antonio Hernalsteen apparently refused to believe that it would come from the other direction, and it took all his powers of backtracking to tip Chan's effort over.
-Blitz- had done what they could, but there was surely no way back now, as Grilled switched to counterattacking mode. Gene Filippone
and Iman Eshrafi
would come on before it was done, but frankly had little to do.