A Royal Bashing
Islom Times Three
Grilled Birds did their thing against royal1880 today, in their fourth meeting this season against a Belgian club. The Division Six hosts' expansive 4-4-2 was not exactly suited to handle Birds' penchant for attacking en masse, however, and they would be completely overrun after a relatively-balanced opening half.
With the Royals bent on blooding their reserves, plenty lay on Spanish captain Josep Maria Abella, who quickly identified centre-forward Islom Davlatov
as Grilled's main threat. In this, he was probably right, but unfortunately Grilled were rather more than one man - Moey Xin Seng
would skip past him to strike in the 16th minute, and Neeraj Muthyala
then nearly doubled on the next raid, lashing a screamer narrowly high.
Animated Venezuelan head coach Rosendo Rodríguez made his adjustments from the sidelines, resulting in a more aggressive press, and indirectly to Steinfinnur Eysturlíð's yellow card for cutting Cyril Künzler
down. Kalki Parvathaneni
would make it 2-0 in the 29th with an excellent turn of pace, but royal1880 were making chances of their own too, and Rostislav Radvan reversed a pass nicely for German winger Sergey Chichagov to hammer past Krystian Rykowski
on the sprint.
This marked the beginning of a very entertaining finish to the half, as the Royals' increased willingness to push on also left space for the Birds to exploit. This was Parvathaneni's territory, and he would eagerly race ahead to cut another goal beyond Abdelqawi Jomani, just two minutes on. Undaunted, royal2880 reduced through Rob Imbrecht's chip three minutes from half-time, only for Islom Davlatov
to run roughshod over Jomani to make it 4-2.
It was perhaps as well that the whistle came when it did, with many of the royal1880 players clearly upset at referee Einar Seglem not affording their goalie enough protection. Indeed, Jomani had barely managed to recover to see out the remaining time, and replays showed that Davlatov had indeed, if probably accidentally, raked the goalkeeper's thigh while leaping over him to score.
The away fans were thus in even better cheer than usual, when Jomani pulled off a wonder-save against his nemesis, soon after the restart. It could have been even sweeter, as trainee midfielder Shawn Bacquelaine carried the ball half the length of the pitch before putting Rob Imbrecht through, but the forward would send it wide under good pressure from Hoàng Trung Quá
The Royals were doing pretty well despite that setback, however, and if they continued in that vein, a draw was hardly out of the question. Things went south when Eysturlíð caught Chu Xin Lee
late in the 52nd, however, as the tricky Grilled midfielder made an abrupt swerve. The Faroese winger must have known what was coming, as he looked pleadingly at the referee while still seated, but this was a clear-cut yellow - which meant his departure.
Now with just ten men, royal1880 had to adjust, while Grilled made to turn the screws by throwing Yuki Irie
on to compress play from the back. The Birds were simply flinging all they had at the Royals' box at this point, and Seglem surely didn't help his popularity with the Royals contingent, when he spotted Elko Bossaert getting the barest of touches with his hand, in the process of a header. Cyril Künzler
lined the penalty up, and knocked it soundly in for Grilled's fifth goal.
royal1880 were flagging badly now, and their defence was at sixes and sevens with Grilled's forwards running riot. Nicola Van Cleynenbreugel had contended with Künzler as well as he could have for most of the game, but there was no stopping the Pole from dashing past in the 68th minute. Künzler would then pick out Islom Davlatov
, who barged past Abella before stabbing it in.
It was evident that there was no love lost between the proud Uzbek and the crowd, as he made a point to celebrate just yards from the visiting stands. He then added fire to the fuel with a rough tackle on his marker, and as if that were not enough, he would then complete his hat-trick on Grilled's next attack, as the Royals lost the ball far too cheaply in their own half.
Likely as much to allow the match officials to get a grip on the game as anything, Rodríguez signalled for a substitution at this point, sending regular striker Blake Rangiihu on for the mostly-outclassed Radvan. There would be no further consolation for the visitors, though, and considering the atmosphere, the referee was probably right to blow for the final whistle almost before Jomani saved off Chan Ze Han
on the stroke of ninety minutes.