Eshrafi At The Double
Grilled passed their Red Chaos test with flying colours at The Cooking Pot, as they repeated their six-goal haul from their famous match last month. The visitors additionally had one of those days, as they battled willingly, but were entirely unable to collect any return from an uncooperative Valentin Batâr
In this, Red Chaos' predilection towards forcing their way through the middle might have played some role, as it left the Birds' backline with somewhat less ground to cover. This played into Yuki Irie
's hands in particular, as he was able to use his bag of accumulated tricks, to adequately constrain Giancarlo De Leonardis' movements.
This was not to say that Red Chaos were ineffectual, and they should have scored from Tan Chun Jun's dink over Batâr in the 13th minute - that bounced harmless off the top of the crossbar, to the home fans' great relief. They kept it up, and after Chu Xin Lee
got careless in the 31st, Abdul Wahab Mohd Muslim sped straight ahead for the through ball. He would have gotten it too, had Batâr not been patrolling at the edge of his area.
There was then some tit-and-tat, as it became Ow How Tze's turn to not look around him. Moey Xin Seng
was only too happy to hit him from the blind side and feed Cyril Künzler
, who instantly headed towards the acres of empty space on the right. The cross was challenging, interfered with as it was by Hung Kong Kum, but it was sufficient for Islom Davlatov
to bang in running from deep.
Davlatov certainly looked to have taken to his new deployment as an attacking midfielder very well, although he was in all honesty operating more as a withdrawn forward for much of the game. His teammates were definitely not complaining, all the more when he elbowed his way to the head of the line, to head Künzler's cross in just a few minutes later. Vikram Mudaliar
wasn't about to get sour despite being one of those pushed aside, which bodes well for team cohesion.
Two-nil was slightly hard on the visitors, given their undeniable workrate, and they came back out swinging. Tan Chun Jun went Route One after continued pushes down the centre made little headway, and Austrian striker Peter Mader got the crowd on their feet with his magical bicycle kick; it would come off the bottom of the crossbar this time, however, and although De Leonardis hastened to clean up, Yuta Nakakita
got there a split-second ahead of him.
That miss cemented the realization that it was just not going to be their day, and Hovaness Noubaryan
took the opportunity to send Mohammad Ramli Saliman
on to drive the stake in. Grilled were indeed blessed on the offence, as could be seen when Kalki Parvathaneni
saw the ball come back to him off an unwitting Ling Sze Ah, after he had lost it on a poor dribble. Parvathaneni wouldn't make the mistake of looking a gift horse in the mouth, and immediately lashed it past the unprepared Gioacchino Errico.
Red Chaos gaffer Bulcsú Latabár could only throw his hands up at that one, but judging from how he directed Yeoh Kian Loong to implement some tactical changes, he hadn't totally given up. This was quite understandable, in light of how Grilled had recovered from exactly this three-nil deficit in their last meeting.
The visitors had a huge problem, though - that of just not being able to score. It was not for want of effort, given how they had actually almost matched the Birds for shots attempted, but something else entirely. For instance, Mader did everything by the book after being put through by Gan Loong Han in the 70th, but his right leg simply failed him at the critical juncture.
Grilled had few issues about that, in comparison, and they moreover had fortune heavily favouring them. Parvathaneni's luck on their last goal aside, they got another huge slice, when Ling threw himself at a decent Moey header that Errico seemed to have covered. That slight touch was enough to alter the trajectory sufficiently to deceive the planted goalkeeper.
There was nothing for it, as was the case for Vikram Mudaliar
, whose eighty minutes of ceaseless running had not yielded him a clear shot. He was not quite inside the tunnel, when substitute Iman Eshrafi
scored on his first touch, with Chan Ze Han
letting Cyril Künzler
's cross run on.
Eshrafi wasn't even content, and he would shortly afterwards pop up behind Yeoh, to rob him and add a sixth. This could be construed as being in somewhat poor taste, given how the visitors had suffered already, but the home support weren't about to protest.