Five To The Gums
Chan Comes Of Age
A severely-depleted Grilled showed their best side at Home Of De Young Guns, as they methodically built a five-goal lead that ArSenal and their home fans could only be aghast at. Their brief, late respite was the least they deserved, but it was clear who the winners for the day were to be by then.
The Birds had travelled without perhaps their most influential forward and midfielder, with Islom Davlatov
and captain Moey Xin Seng
disqualified due to suspension. Neeraj Muthyala
would also join the dirty duo on the bench, as he failed a late medical checkup. Given these sadly-reduced circumstances, Hovaness Noubaryan
had to install Hoàng Trung Quá
as an emergency holding mid, alongside what was doubtless a silent prayer.
He needn't have worried. The local papers had been calling for a strong response from the Birds, after last week's disappointing loss to Ropelearner FC, and this was exactly what they got. They tore unhesitatingly into a wary ArSenal team, who never found the room they needed to express themselves. Alfredo Corrales had to be nimble on his feet when Mohammad Ramli Saliman
spotted a gap in the sixth minute, and only an immediate rush out kept Kalki Parvathaneni
from getting to the ball first.
Parvathaneni was aware of the weight on his shoulders, with neither of his strike partners exactly known for stretching defences, and he made as much of a nuisance of himself as he could, leading up to a 22nd minute booking for kicking Mihail Cioceanu's legs. This would turn into Grilled's opener, on the bright side, as Cyril Künzler
blocked the free-kick straight back to Chan Ze Han
, who drew the goalie out before finding the narrowest of angles.
Andrey Bozhkov attempted to level in like fashion two minutes later, but Valentin Batâr
wisely left no space between himself and his near post. The teams then alternated attacks with increasing frequency, culmulating in Parvathaneni firing into Corrales, after Chu Xin Lee
had found the crossbar. At the other end, Étienne Höckelsberger left a trailing leg invitingly for Yuki Irie
as he entered the area on the counter, and was somehow surprised when the referee didn't buy his fall.
The hosts raised the intensity as half-time neared, and Italian midfielder Piersandro Patarnello would be yellow carded, for failing to keep an eye out for Yuta Nakakita
in the 40th minute. Yuta landed awkwardly on his back as a result of the mid-air hit, which forced Noubaryan to give Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
his first official appearance, after six seasons of waiting.
If this was extremely well-received for the homegrown lad, it was far less so for most of the travelling support, who felt the team had enough on their hands already. As with the absence of Moey and company, though, the rest of the Birds proved amazingly resilient, and Mohd Jafni for one refused to be the weak link, with his in-your-face defence severely discomfiting Höckelsberger before long.
A single goal's lead was hardly enough for anybody to call it, and ArSenal seemed likely to cancel that early in the second half, with Yuta's knack for bringing the ball up now missing from the Grilled side. It was they who would get caught, though, with Jonne Matero overextended against Cyril Künzler
in the 62nd. The cross was taken early, and Chan Ze Han
met it with a flying volley, for a spectacular second goal.
It is easy to forget the magnitude of talent that Grilled have on their hands with Chan without exhibitions such as these, but ArSenal didn't have much time to mull on it, as they were suddenly driven back. Their players didn't quite know how to react to Grilled's haphazard attacking, which allowed Parvathaneni through to feed Künzler for 3-0, just four minutes after Chan's second goal.
What had just been a balanced contest tipping the hosts' way several minutes ago was now turning into a bloodbath, as ArSenal's will appeared to evaporate all of a sudden. There was barely an attempt to track Hoàng Trung Quá
as he drifted in for a pop in the 69th, and although Corrales traded it for a corner then, Kalki Parvathaneni
would return with a majestic cycling kick for the fourth.
It was all over when Iman Eshrafi
stole in behind to knock a cheap goal home in the 78th, before promptly being booked for kneeing Andrey Bozhkov in a sensitive area, as he wheeled away in delight. Charles Lao entered for the stricken Ukrainian playmaker, and ArSenal's fortunes were immediately lifted, with Étienne Höckelsberger collecting a belated consolation off a Matero assist.
There was time for yet one more ArSenal strike, with Mihail Cioceanu punishing a careless Mohd Jafni, whose initial laser-sharp focus had gone by now. Grilled weren't about to take it too hard, however, and they would get Pompeo Bellamoli
in to while the final seconds away, as second place beckoned.