Not So Fast Now
The Birds' ambitions received an enormous lift today, as they recorded their first victory over reigning champions -Blitz- in two full seasons. It was the usual rollicking ride for a fixture that has never seen fewer than three goals, and seldom less than five, but it was Grilled who stood tallest after this edition.
ReducedToRubble had moreover never been a happy hunting ground for Grilled, with their own win here a hard-fought 3-2 that saw Moey Xin Seng
on top, with Yuta Nakakita
and Islom Davlatov
scoring too. The trio would also be on target today, with record transfer Massoud Dob
further making his much-anticipated league debut in a pressure-cooker environment.
-Blitz- head coach Kiril Gichev saw little reason to change too much from the side that overturned Grilled Birds at The Cooking Pot they last met, although the departure of German centreback Johannes Polley necessitated Daniel Ariton falling back into his position. Ariton's own midfield position was then ably filled by S$13.5 million new big signing Elias Yie, currently a regular with the national squad.
Yie would however not exactly have it his way this stormy day, and it would be a casualty of the last meeting that dictated the initial flow. Neeraj Muthyala
, who had to hobble off in a reduced state of dignity that March day, would be entirely within his element in the early going. His linking-up with Chan Ze Han
had warned -Blitz- off attacking too cavalierly, but there was still nothing to be done when he peeled in from the right to drive the opener past Antonio Hernalsteen in the 12th minute.
It was a match fought mostly in the middle, and the ball could spend minutes held up there, before one fellow or the other lost his patience, and slung it into the grey blight. Grilled would find their best opportunities originating from wide, as happened when Florus Romijn
found Moey Xin Seng
for 2-0, 24 minutes in. Elias Yie would respond in kind, though, as the always-dangerous Ricardo Rey swung inside after shaking Cyril Künzler
off, before finding Yie just where he wanted him.
The participants were eschewing proper defending, or so it seemed, and it was the weather that protected their goalkeepers as much as any human effort. It was Künzler's turn to contribute in the 34th, when his swirling cross was nodded lazily over Hernalsteen by a free-ranging Yuta, but Dob would be beaten shortly afterwards by Franz Schachner's accurate read of an impending Yie through ball.
This to-and-froing would finally be broken, on Chu Xin Lee
's chop job on Ariton as the half drew to a close. The Romanian veteran tried to stop the clock by grabbing the ball as he fell, but Chu had seen that coming, and continued on; a fervent appeal to the match officials by half the home team didn't earn them any reprieve, and Ho Chee Chu's more-direct claim went sailing merrily over the bar.
The unreasonable pace, combined with a miserable drenching, meant that the second half had to be rather more controlled, and it was -Blitz- who seemed to benefit more from this turn of pace. With Muthyala never quite hitting his previous highs, it was Nie Tze Chao's turn to shine, and his thoughtful distribution led to Schachner coming away in a one-on-one with Massoud Dob
, after 52 minutes. Dob nearly managed to save it, but the touch he got with his foot was ultimately not heavy enough.
Grilled made their expected swap of Yuki Irie
on for Hoàng Trung Quá
, and whether or not Yuki had any direct influence so soon after coming on, the Birds were definitely roused to action. They were interchanging expertly up front to the detriment of -Blitz-, whose players struggled to track their marks. Thus it was that Ho Chee Chu found himself torn between following Vikram Mudaliar
and Islom Davlatov
, allowing the latter to close in for an easy finish.
Two-goal lead restored, and with only twenty minutes remaining, Grilled were nevertheless not relaxing - and for good reason. They did, however, become slightly less adventurous, and seemed to have escaped the worst consequences when Nie Tze Chao mishit a sitter from Ricardo Rey's 76th minute delivery. Rey would turn to doing it himself instead, and scored from a controversial header in which he flung himself full-on into Dob. This time, it was the Birds' turn to protest, but referee Joaquín Villaseca remained silent to the evident approval of the crowd.
-Blitz- had a comeback on their minds now, but they first had to survive a wicked Künzler free-kick - which they did, if only thanks to some world-class reflexes from Hernalsteen. Their forced attacking would prove their final downfall, however, and it was Moey Xin Seng
who hammered the nail in, with his almost-reckless contested volley with six minutes left.