The Japanese Resistance
The Birds' impressive 14-game undefeated streak, the joint third-longest in their entire history and only marred by a single draw against Changi Genius, came to an end at ReducedToRubble today.
Although Grilled had begun to build a fine record in this derby, winning both their previous league fixtures last season, it was evident to observers that -Blitz- were a fast-improving side. This was supported by a general consensus that they had been undersold in their draws against ArSenal U21 and RFC, both games in which they had captured the initiative.
Young Bulgarian head coach Kiril Gichev's penchant for pace everywhere had only increased, and with one eye on the Singapore Cup, the Birds had to make some concessions. Kalki Parvathaneni
's continued inclusion in midfield could be seen as an adaptation, but their junior forward line selection with an average age of under twenty remained largely unproved, despite Iman Eshrafi
's recent exploits.
Speed-wise, Grilled were not exactly slouches either, but the appropriately-named -Blitz-'s frightening tempo would yield them the upper hand. George-Cosmin Tudorache was, as always, the perfect foil to his teammates' turbo passes, and it was only Valentin Batâr
's brave pre-emption of Ricardo Rey's 16th minute incursion that kept the Romanian hotshot from opening. Unfortunately for Batâr, it would merely fall to fullback Ognjen Trifunović to score with a dinky chip.
The Birds were not completely undone, and it turned out that youth had its advantages in attacking too. Their best chances came when their forwards did the unexpected, such as when Iman Eshrafi
laid it on despite being heavily covered, in the 31st minute. That post-shaker was followed closely by Chan Ze Han
's more-measured attempt from Moey Xin Seng
's clip-on, but while Chan's precision was spot-on, his shot power left something to be desired.
It was a busy period indeed, as all involved saw opportunities aplenty; Chan's effort was reversed into a free-kick that former Singaporean international Gagan Kamat failed to connect with, and Valentin Batâr
then repaid his salary several times over with magnificent saves from Rey and Rafał Komisarek. It was then Grilled's turn to counter, but it ended in tears as Moey Xin Seng
twisted his ankle badly in the process of slicing an ambitious shot.
barely had time to take up his post as the action continued, with the crowd really getting into the excitement. And, to the visiting stand's delight, it would be Grilled who would equalise. Florus Romijn
made full use of Kamat's absence to cut inside from the left, and Yuta Nakakita
made the most of the half-chance that ensued.
Despite that, it would be the hosts who would not only regain, but extend their lead before the break. Their resumed their original breakneck pace from the restart, and it was sufficient for Rey to do his thing, as the celebrated Colombian winger burnt Mohammad Ramli Saliman
and whacked a second in. The Birds had barely registered that when Trifunović made it 3-1, heading Kamat's cross home as the latter made up for his earlier oversight.
couldn't hide his concern, but with Muthyala already deployed, what was left was a painfully thin bench - that was moreover hardly in the best of condition. What was left was to try and make do as best as they did, but Grilled's personnel didn't lend them well to fighting from behind, and George-Cosmin Tudorache got his obligatory goal, poaching it in the 53rd.
Grilled kept their chins up, and with Moey Xin Seng
off, several senior players took it upon themselves to assist Chan Ze Han
in managing the team. One of them was returning vice-captain Yuki Irie
, who demonstrated a good eye for goal, when he spotted Antonio Hernalsteen drifting off his line. It was a technically difficult shot to take, especially on the move, but Yuki managed to find the target with his lob.
That would prove little more than a temporary respite, sadly, as -Blitz- were edging the Birds in stamina despite their clearly superior workrate. With Grilled pressed to merely keep up, there was no question of advancing themselves, and they were soon boxed into a scenario that they were ill-suited to win; indeed, Komisarek would make it 5-2 in a few minutes, as Rey's exceptional skills drew Batâr out, and gifted the Pole a tap-in.
A sixth would follow in due course, with Kamat finding the net after Tudorache allowed Daniel Ariton's slick centered ball to run across him. Tudorache then made a play for another one for himself, but a dazzling series of touches was let down by him putting just a bit too much on his final swing.