Savaged By Savin
The Birds concluded a so-so season with a 2-7 friendly defeat in the Ukraine, as reigning Consolation Cup holders and Division Three toppers FC Fulleren squeezed Grilled out of midfield through sheer intensity. It was definitely not a match for the faint-hearted, despite nominally being an exhibition, as the hosts approached it very seriously indeed.
The measure of that was that they fielded their regular middle three of Nikita Kushnir, Mykhaylo Mohnenko and Dariy Savin, all homegrown stars whom some have earmarked for future national caps. Against this, their Grilled counterparts paled in comparison, but Islom Davlatov
was not wanting for fight at least. After being expertly boxed out by Savin in just the second minute, he bowled his marker over none too subtly.
Referee Mehrshad Ayoubinejad rightly dispensed with the warnings and went for the straight yellow, but the Fulleren players were definitely more than able to take care of themselves. Retaliation was swift in arriving, as Leonid Ganitskiy flew rather harder than required into Davlatov, when they went up for a header. He was booked too, of course, but a point had been made.
It was soon surprising how proper football could be played in such a contentious environment, and Ayoubinejad struggled to keep tempers from boiling over, resorting to frequent stoppages and talkings-to. Amidst all of that, the Birds actually got the first big break of note when Saliman nodded it nicely for Moey Xin Seng
, but the Grilled skipper's half-volley skimmed the crossbar.
Fulleren had that extra thing that saw them edge the Birds bit by bit, and Grilled slowly went from giving as good as they got, to being forced on the defensive. This had seldom been a good look for Grilled, and Fulleren made their endeavour count in the 22nd minute after several saves, as Ganitskiy held off Rashid bin Ahmad
's attentions to reach Zakhar Kozharov's cross first.
They didn't let off, and although Bogdan Zubkov and Dariy Savin would follow Ganitskiy into the referee's book, Fulleren were impeccable in containing the Birds. Their midfield trio made for a bulwark just inside Grilled's third, and from this foundation they made it 3-0 by half-time, with goals from Zakhar Kozharov and Yan Pshyk.
There was definitely no love lost between the participants by this point, and it took the more clear-headed coaches to herd their charges into the dressing rooms one batch at a time, lest there be any unnecessary flare-ups. Djan Bacelar
replaced the disappointing Kalki Parvathaneni
with Chan Ze Han
for the restart, but that didn't keep Savin from flashing through to drill a fourth home, barely two minutes into the new half.
Substitutions were definitely not helping Grilled's cause, with Rashid bin Ahmad
coming off for Jérémy Tarin
in the 60th followed almost immediately by Pavlo Kovalenko's deflected header. The Fulleren die-hards in attendance were certainly enjoying the visitors' discomfiture, judging from their raucous chants whenever a Birds player lost the ball.
Grilled were not entirely helpless, thankfully, and a spark of individual creativity would save them from a shutout. Sensing his chance, Chan Ze Han
worked a sharp give-and-go with Chu Xin Lee
in the 70th minute, freeing himself of the opposing midfielders for once. A little jig around Yan Pshyk later, and Chan had the set-up he needed to lob Francisco Paes Mendes in the Fulleren goal.
The hosts for their part weren't about to sweat it too much, and the previous animosity faded somewhat, as the teams began to just enjoy the game. Ganitskiy split the defence to record a second goal in the 76th minute, and Mohammad Ramli Saliman
did the same back in a chaotic build-up several minutes later, making it 6-2 with a decisive poke beyond Fulleren's Brazilian goalie.
Fulleren would have the last word in any case, as Nikita Kushnir outjumped Tarin to power Ganitskiy's cross home, eight minutes from time.