Off One's Chest
Grilled Birds earned only their third win against -= Manchester United =- in eleven competitive meetings, with the hosts going through some adaptation pains with head coach Stephan Ströming adopting the 4-4-2, amidst a major reshuffling of the squad that has seen six regulars leave in the past month alone. They would dearly miss Czech creator Jan Mrhálek, who had his right ankle busted just days ago in the Cup.
Perhaps considering this, Ströming went for the waiting game, a variation that they were definitely equipped to try out. 31 year-old Portuguese veteran Jerónimo José Simões Ribeiro would be made the captain on his debut, which some whispered, didn't bode well for the state of United's dressing room. As for Grilled, Moey Xin Seng
and Cyril Künzler
failed late fitness tests, which left Neeraj Muthyala
filling in at right wing, and Bernie Egan
starting his second straight match as midfield fulcrum.
It wasn't the best of positions for Egan, frankly, with his frame not best suited to the rough-and-tumble of the crowded middle. Grilled's numerical superiority and United's evident brief to stand off gave him the space he needed to operate, thankfully, and Egan would stroke it purposefully towards Vikram Mudaliar
, who had his back to goal, in the 13th. Mudaliar unselfishly teed it up for Islom Davlatov
, having sensed a defender encroaching, and Davlatov left Luis Monteiro no hope with a magnificently-flighted take.
There were some recriminations between the United players at that, with Harald Mekker and Sim Chin Chi in particular disagreeing on where Sim was supposed to be. Grilled weren't waiting for them to compose themselves, and would seek to leave them as little time to scheme as possible, with Bilal Mohammad Harun
ramming a strike into the crossbar after half an hour. This would birth United's first major drive at the Birds' goal, but Yuta Nakakita
kept on Dominik von Weizäcker's inside, depriving him of a clear shot.
Grilled carried on teasing, with a cheeky Kalki Parvathaneni
blind lob almost finding the top corner, but it would be -= Manchester United =- who would equalize before the break. Ribeiro elevated himself as an instant idol at Old Trafford with a slick first touch and finish following Davlatov's abortive effort at the other end. Vikram Mudaliar
tried to match it with a fierce strike deep into injury time, but Monteiro batted it over, with no time left for the corner to be taken.
United would probably be happier about how the half turned out, and would have been justified in fancying their chances against a frustrated Birds team later on. Indeed, they began the second period the stronger, with Russian forward Nurlan Ablaev getting away from Gilbert Webb
several times in their tussles.
Nothing big emerged from those occasions, though, and it would be Grilled's defence that would come up with their second goal. Bilal won a free-kick some ten yards into United's half, and the Birds would bank on the direct route. Webb dropped the ball onto Davlatov's head on the fringe of the penalty area, and the Number Ten flicked it on in turn to Yuta Nakakita
. No third pass was required, as Yuta swung for goal and succeeded.
Webb would be off fifteen minutes later, with Hoàng Trung Quá
on to add some spice, as United began getting impatient by necessity. No longer able to just wait it out, they would have to venture more, in the process leaving holes in their wake. Ulrich Langagergaard would for one be booked after committing a professional foul to shut Kalki Parvathaneni
down before he took off, but given the circumstances, it had to be a good trade for the defender.
That didn't help United's prospects, though, and Egan was inches from celebrating his first goal for Grilled in the 79th minute, only for the moment to be spoilt by Fernando Oriol's wonderful recovery from behind him. Grilled began to apply the pressure, with Florus Romijn
then narrowly curling it wide, before acting captain Chan Ze Han
got it in the bag with a cannon from twenty yards.