Braced For Recoil
Grilled romped to their biggest-ever margin of victory in nine matches against ArSenal U21, though their roster of unavailables would also continue growing, with Massoud Dob
likely and Islom Davlatov
certain to miss the return fixture. The pressure however continues mounting on new ArSenal U21 head coach Guido Leuckert, who must have thought his side capable of a serious title shot after heading the table two rounds in... only for it to unravel in spectacular fashion, as they lost the next four in a row at at least four goals.
This, coupled with the Birds' resounding wins last season, did not bode well for the visitors, who however always had an outside chance with two names on the team sheet - Isaac Altefähre and Étienne Höckelsberger. The former in particular had managed to lead all scorers with eight thus far, or half his team's haul, and he sounded an early alarm with an intent-filled swipe from kick-off.
The rest of the ArSenal lineup unfortunately didn't quite match his ambition, and their rather insipid midfield play gave up far too much to Grilled's own. Neeraj Muthyala
continued to be in impeccable form, with Bilal Mohammad Harun
solid as a rock; however, it would be the third of the trio who would distinguish himself in the early going, as Islom Davlatov
opened from a sly indirect free-kick in the eleventh minute.
Alfredo Corrales should perhaps have been keeping an eye out of that, after Künzler had tried something similar against Be Champions FC in midweek, but there was hardly time for the goalie to muse about it - he would concede a second from Davlatov's smooth dribble not long after. Davlatov's self-destructive tendencies would then come to the fore, as he ruled himself out of the return game by going in hard on Charles Lao, picking up a third yellow.
Lao should perhaps have paused the match for a while longer, but the spirited playmaker was eager to get back going, to his team's detriment. Grilled's onslaught continued unabated, and they were 4-0 up by the 26th minute. Bilal Mohammad Harun
kept up his scoring form with a masterful nudge on Vitus Torzsa at just the right instant on a corner, which was immediately followed by Kalki Parvathaneni
's pounce on a careless Corrales throw. That last was a frankly embarassing mistake for a professional, not that it mattered too much now.
If Grilled weren't going to have it all their own way, they would have to do it by themselves. Certainly, there didn't seem to be much threat when an already-annoyed Altefähre smashed a routine drive without much in the way of options, but Massoud Dob
didn't skint on his leap across, perhaps out of sheer boredom. It looked like some harmless theatrics for the fans on Dob's part... until he rolled over clutching his wrist with an agonized expression.
would therefore be called back into action, and would like Dob be mostly a spectator as the outfielders did the heavy lifting. It was Vikram Mudaliar
's turn to shine, and the former national U-20 forward prodded home in the 33rd, after Moey Xin Seng
disrupted ArSenal's attentions. A sixth followed in the 38th minute, with Bilal serving as control tower on a free-kick.
There was little hint that ArSenal U21 were capable of mounting a credible comeback, judging from their body language as half-time was called. Leuckert certainly didn't have many gamechangers on the bench, with Sage Imana a custodian and Maurice Tang, at best a competent utility man. Jamaican defender Delroy Solomon was notably missing yet again, having been absent since their 0-5 wipeout to ~Pollen~; rumours of a bad falling-out with the coaching staff might indeed be true.
Solomon was certainly missed as Cyril Künzler
swung in from the right flank for 7-0 on Grilled's very first attack of the second half, as Mihail Cioceanu's reputation for not being able to keep up with speedsters was reinforced. Corrales did his best to make himself big, and in fact did get his fingertips to the shot, but Mudaliar was on hand to usher the ball over the line.
Bilal's penchant for headers brought the Birds their eighth from a Künzler cross after 55 minutes, and it was now just a question of whether Grilled could break their all-time record for goals, with over half an hour remaining. This had to hurt for the proud ArSenal players, with Melanio Uon-Aso really cutting loose on his comrades. Isaac Altefähre had too by this time abandoned all pretense at trying for a consolation, and dedicated himself to helping out as a fourth midfielder.
That finally did the trick, and the visitors turned the game into something of a bitter stalemate. They were helped by Hovaness Noubaryan
ordering the Grilled players to cool it, whether out of respect for the opposition, or more probably to conserve energy after a gruelling past few weeks. To this end, Moey Xin Seng
was selected for a well-earned rest, with Chan Ze Han
given license to mix it up for the last twenty minutes.
Chan not accomplish too much with a missing piece, though, as Davlatov got himself dismissed barely five minutes later. Étienne Höckelsberger was trying to make space for himself with Davlatov sticking to him, and the latter sure didn't appreciate Höckelsberger's shielding with his elbows. The Grilled Number Ten dragged his German foe down by his left arm, which left him with a suspected dislocated shoulder as he hit the turf hard. It was hard to tell how much Davlatov's pending suspension contributed to his behaviour, but he tellingly didn't seem to regret his deeds as he trooped off.
Noubaryan redoubled his exhortations on taking it easy after that incident, and the captain's armband would change hands once more with five minutes to go, from Hoàng Trung Quá
to Yuta Nakakita
as Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
entered for the former. Grilled as a whole didn't have the stomach for taking further risks to run the score up, and settled for eight and a clean sheet.