Missing In Action
Mia San Toa Payoh came away from The Cooking Pot with three points in their first-ever match against Grilled Birds, despite the latter being fully in control for much of the game. A failure to finish would prove the Birds' undoing eventually, when coupled with some astonishing blunders from their defenders as the second half progressed.
From how Mia San played against -= Manchester United =- last Sunday, this was never going to be an easy one, and young German head coach Vico Backnang moreover had the tactical flexibility to morph his side to a 4-4-2, playing on the counter - as they well could, given that their national strikeforce of Tan Tong Leong and Jerry Lim could turn just about any ball forward into a fair chance.
Not only that, Backnang had another special order up his sleeves, with Brunei veteran Azrinuddin bin Hj Erywan making it a point to hassle Islom Davlatov
whenever he could, which all but took the duo out of contention. The Birds weren't overly worried just yet, from how they were moving the ball about confidently, and Kalki Parvathaneni
would clip the ball down and across Gunnar Lastdrager in the 16th minute. The angle was against Kalki, unfortunately, and Lastdrager managed to flap it aside.
The Birds were just getting into the flow, for all of Joonas Riihiniemi's covering and tracking back, and Vikram Mudaliar
was especially effective coming at Norberto Osvaldo Fernández Löbbe from the right. The Argentine didn't quite know what to make of Mudaliar's turn of pace, and was completely lost for his 25th minute blitz opener. It could have gotten ugly as Mudaliar bore past him once more, just three minutes later, but Lastdrager was there to ward the shot off.
The visitors got a welcome breather with Massimiliano Marco Scavazzini stopping the game for Florus Romijn
's ill-advised tackle from behind, and Oleg Usik was certainly in no hurry to get on with it. And quite understandably so, from how Grilled returned to camping outside their penalty area; Moey Xin Seng
would try a diagonal ball in, and although Chu Xin Lee
didn't get on the end of it, the ball would nearly drift into goal by itself.
saw no reason to change an approach that was working, what with Mia San's vaunted attack being all but silenced. He would soon have cause to regret that complacency.
Nothing seemed amiss as Grilled worked the ball aggressively to begin the second half, with a long sequence on the left leading up to a setup for Moey, six minutes in. The Grilled captain would again be denied by the woodwork, however, and Tan Tong Leong would parlay the long ball out, into a free-kick.
This was the visitors' clearest look at Massoud Dob
's net thus far, and they had something inventive in store. Usik did a little jig before scooping it just behind the Birds' wall, and to the crowd's horror, none of them reacted, apparently expecting Dob to collect. This was just what Jerry Lim was hoping for, and he would bump a half-committed Yuta Nakakita
aside, before equalizing.
Moey's complaints to the referee justly went nowhere, but Grilled got over that disappointment in short order. Their narrow play continued to have an impact, and Bilal Mohammad Harun
put all of himself into a header, dropping it into the Mia San box. Mudaliar's feet were quickest as a defender clearly poorly, and the resulting lob cleared Lastdrager quite exactly, for 2-1.
If Grilled thought that they could relax with that, however, they were sadly mistaken. Their opponents would turn out to have another gear or two in store, and began to crank it up. Tan was in the thick of things again, as after Gilbert Webb
allowed a routine square pass to get away from him, he had no option but to take the lurking Tan down. It was to Webb's credit that he at least did it cleanly enough to avoid a booking, but that was scant consolation when Oleg Usik bent it about the wall with a world-class take.
It would only get worse. Mia San were turning the direction of the match around with an astonishing rapidity, and it was eminently clear that Grilled were at a loss here. Certainly, it was hard to watch as Yuta Nakakita
tried to trap a through pass instead of just chasing after it, alongside Gilbert Webb
strolling with his hand up for offside, rather than going after Dick McCandless, as he might well have. Massoud Dob
's face was a mask of disgust as McCandless deposited it past him, as his defenders were left to appeal in vain.
That was the end of Yuta Nakakita
's day right there, with Hovaness Noubaryan
seeing fit to replace him with Neeraj Muthyala
, despite Muthyala being a midfielder. Honestly, it was an upgrade, as Muthyala brought with him a drive that dragged Grilled out of its funk. Indeed, Vikram Mudaliar
might have had his hat-trick a few minutes after Muthyala had come on, but the Number Nine waited too long to shoot.
Webb didn't last the game as he was brought off for Yuki Irie
with five minutes to go, but Mia San knew what they had to do to see it out.