Ashes To Dust
Grilled received a Malaysian guest for the first time in forty-seven seasons, and they again emerged victorous, though Sarawakian visitors dust and ashes put up an exceptional fight in the process. The five-time Division Three winners drove the Birds every step of the way, but a mischievous Chu Xin Lee
had other ideas for the day.
Having just come off two seasons in the second division, dust and ashes had adopted a flexible and balanced footballing manner, built around their ever-popular midfield core of Massimo Pignataro and Igor Mišković. Hometown boy made good Chau An Pin, a centre forward's centre forward, would proudly lead the team out.
It would however be the Birds who would get off on the front foot this rainy morning, with Moey Xin Seng
patently yearning to show Chau - a doppelganger of himself if ever there was one - who was boss. Four minutes in, he blew Héctor Clemente out of the way to power a header down to the oncoming Chan Ze Han
, who signalled his appreciation immediately after tucking the ball around a prematurely-spreadeagled Luis Ascanio.
Grilled continued turning the screws as the visitors took their time acclimatizing, with dust and ashes striker Ramzi Hilman Abd Ghani for one having great difficulty keeping his footing. For all that, he did enough to get it to Chau by the tip of his toes in the 30th minute, and the Number Sixty wasted no time in slipping it between Dan Seng
A couple of messy takes by Moey Xin Seng
and Mohammad Ramli Saliman
later, it was dust and ashes who would turn the tables. The downpour would finally turn to their advantage as José Luiz Velho
collided with Gene Filippone
in a good-faith effort at defending, leaving Gerwald Rijper to enter from the right freely. Seng had to come out, leaving Aza Mohd Shafi with the simplest of finishes.
The Birds kept their focus, and were vindicated two minutes later, in a tit-for-tat venture. Cyril Künzler
's winding run might not have been one of his nippiest, but it was more than enough to open room for a quality cross - one that Chu Xin Lee
would nick in for 2-2, almost nonchalently.
All in all, the first half was well worth the ticket price for the few brave fans who showed up, and for a game between clubs hailing from countries boasting a historically bitter rivalry, the temperament of the match had been surprisingly good. Much of it was probably down to the exemplary sportsmanship of Pignataro and Mišković, who had been the very picture of refined professionalism.
The second half saw a couple of new faces, with the underperforming Krystian Rykowski
given a chance in goal for the Birds. As for the opposition, Iranian winger Farshad Marani came in for Rijper, looking much recovered from the serious knee injury suffered against DaGg3r Inc., that had sidelined him for a month.
Despite dust and ashes' well-organized backline, Grilled's edge in possession would tell. With only Künzler as an out-and-out winger, their attacks might have become slightly one-dimensional, but they more than made up for it with sheer quantity. A variation with Neeraj Muthyala
overlapping saw dust and ashes' defence finally breached in the 59th, as Künzler connected with Muthyala's cross, after it soared over intended target Moey's head.
Reasonable they might have been, but the visitors were evidently here for the result, and Spanish head coach Diego Jugo would put Alan Baydil'daev and Jonny Jensen Nielsen in a direct counter to Künzler down his side. It was an effective remedy, and Grilled were left scrambling to react by sending Yuki Irie
on, just as Muthyala received a booking for blatant time-wasting with fifteen minutes remaining.
While tactically the right thing to do, Muthyala's sacrifice was in vain, as dust and ashes worked their way inside patiently from the delayed throw-in. Igor Mišković shielded the ball expertly as he waited for precisely the right moment, and it arrived in the form of his trusty midfield partner. One final exchange between Massimo Pignataro and Aza Mohd Shafi then left the former free to put it past Rykowski.
Extra time loomed large with this deserved equaliser, and one had to suspect that the majority of the attendees would have been just fine with that. Chu Xin Lee
would put an end to those hopes, however, with a delightful flick, turn and strike off Mohammad Ramli Saliman
's layoff, five minutes from time.