Rangers Lose Way
Hard Man Dav
It was a dead rubber between teams with nothing to play for, with Grilled realistically fated to face a qualification game, and richlyeng rangers to return to the Third Division after having copped a first taste of the air up there. If Azzouz Baji was hoping that the Birds would stand off, however, he was badly mistaken, as Islom Davlatov
was for one out to inflict damage - which he did both figuratively and literally.
With Moey Xin Seng
still canned and on the bench, Grilled would start as they had against Mia San, with Chan Ze Han
leading from the front. richyleng might not have won since their 1-0 upset of -= Manchester United =- a month ago, but their draws against Talpons and Mia San suggested a disciplined unit. 30 year-old German midfielder Lars Duenhuber had been their best performer for some time, with club record signing Krystian Dub also taking some beating in goal.
Grilled started strongly in the unseasonal heat, with Florus Romijn
setting Davlatov free on the left with a slick shuffle, just four minutes in. Chong Baohong was still some distance from Davlatov when the latter lined up his cross, but Chan overcomplicated matters by trying to chest the ball down, instead of just improvising a little with his head.
That scare over, the visitors closed ranks, and their 3-4-3 spent much of its time as a 5-2-3 with Duenhuber and Bao sitting very deep. As such, possession wasn't hard to come by for Grilled, but a breakthrough wasn't forthcoming until the 36th minute, as Cyril Künzler
tried his luck lifting the ball from the edge of the box. Anything less than a dip in at the top corner would probably have been covered by Dub, but this was just what the Pole achieved.
This was hard on richlyeng, who had been doing so well in containing Grilled's pace on the flanks, and they lost some of their steel in the run-up to half-time. Nikola Mlinarević would struggle badly against Islom Davlatov
's penetrating dash in the 38th, and the Number Ten would surely have scored, had he kept his shot down. Kalki Parvathaneni
took that lesson to heart three minutes on, as he pounced on Dub's parry from a vicious Bilal Mohammad Harun
rocket for 2-0.
As before, Hoàng would be substituted by a fresh Gilbert Webb
for the second half, after which the Birds got the proceedings back under way. Baji seemed to have restored some composure to his team, but inspirational words weren't about to slow Künzler, and then Mudaliar, running at full tilt down the right. Mudaliar centered only after his opening for a shot was closed down, but Davlatov adapted quickly, and climbed over Leif Refseth to get his header in.
richlyeng's complaints were milder than one might have expected, given the inconsequential nature of the game, but they were royally riled up when Davlatov laid into Romanian fullback Irinel Duţu in the 69th minute. Davlatov should probably have let Duţu go after being fooled by a shoulder drop, but pride or something else drove him into a snide tackle. Duţu was unfortunately caught full in his left ankle, and Davlatov narrowly escaped a straight red card there.
This incident finally quietened Davlatov down, but it wasn't as if Grilled didn't have their other weapons. They would come close to a fourth goal from a set-piece setup for Chu Xin Lee
in the 73rd, before Chan Ze Han
left Dub's goalposts shaking with a mighty strike on the turn. richlyeng reciprocated with a delightful long-ball ball from Joni Pipia, but Lars Duenhuber had been starved for service for so long, that he didn't know exactly how to react.
The Birds would sign off with a flourish, as Florus Romijn
came in from the left to finish with his off-foot, 83 minutes in. Grilled then held themselves back as if at an unspoken signal, with the task to come weighing in their minds.