A Krimp In The Plans
Kim Tae Hee FC got a second win over Grilled on the trot, as they held their fire until the very end at The Cooking Pot. It could almost have been one for the ages for the Birds, as they tried to bounce back from three down with just five minutes to go; despite expectedly falling short, it remained a feather in the cap of Chan Ze Han
As in thheir previous win last time around, Kim Tae Hee FC deployed in a tight 4-5-1, with three changes as local longtimers Zabidi Faysal, Mohd Irzani Mohd Ridhwan and Aiyub Mohd Khawarizmi took their places. All considered, even accounting for Chu Xin Lee
's noticeable absence and Moey Xin Seng
again starting on the bench, the betting world still had Grilled as clear favourites on home ground.
Those odds would shift rapidly as the visitors made the absolute most of their very first concerted attack. There appeared little to be concerned about when Florus Romijn
's overambitious dribbled was stopped by Pier Federico Lissandrin almost at Kim Tae Hee FC's corner flag, but a sliderule clearance right down the touchhline - and Bilal Mohammad Harun
's letting it go - was all the asking that Bartolomé Nil required. He spied several comrades pouring into Grilled's box, and Alok Jagannath pulled off a strike in a difficult position to put them ahead.
As before, Kim Tae Hee FC readily placed their energies into defence, and with Paul Târlă in immaculate form, Grilled's realistic shooting range was quite restricted, as Chan Ze Han
found. It would take something rather closer in to trouble the Romanian custodian, and this came in the 24th minute with Kalki Parvathaneni
slicing sharply inside from the left wing. None of the Kim Tae Hee FC defenders could get a fix on him, and Kalki roused the fans by slipping it between Târlă's legs, easy as you like.
Grilled's continued edge in midfield didn't translate into many further clear chances like that, with their opponents only upping the ante in jamming up spaces in their own half. This led to a moment of madness that Neeraj Muthyala
would regret for ages, after his lazy pass was picked off by Salah Abd El Razzak, as the Birds tried to find a good angle to start an incursion.
Kok Lee Kwang would score due to this, but what made a very bad mistake into a disastrous one was Muthyala's follow-up. With the ball long gone, he vented with a none-too-subtle forehead push into Salah, who crumpled instantly. The fourth official had a clear view of the transgression, and once the goal had been recorded, there was nothing for German referee Hansi Constantin to do but to show Muthyala the first red card of his career.
By this time, Neeraj had regained control of himself and looked positively mortified, but the damage was done. Kim Tae Hee FC head coach Narcis Cercel adjusted his tactics almost immediately, and what had been a painful objective became doubly so, with Jagannath being more than savvy enough to give Grilled the constant runaround in a newly-sparse midfield.
This state of affairs extended deep into the second half, and though Gilbert Webb
's replacement with Hoàng Trung Quá
in the 70th led directly to some excitement, it was only by the standards of how repressed the match had become. Bernie Egan
was manifestly unsuited to combating a three-man midfield, and Chan's dropping back, while tactically aware, only left Grilled's strikeforce even more undermanned.
Kim Tae Hee FC were seeming well capable of riding it out, but they further boosted these odds with a well-timed late push as the Birds lost discipline. Hovaness Noubaryan
was aware of the risks, but given the circumstances, he had no choice but to let it be. His worst fears were however realised when Hoàng's forward runs left a gaping hole for Cory Trang to exploit in the 82nd minute, and the homegrown 22 year-old used Aiyub cleverly, to open up the goal for his own strike.
It was then an unassailable 1-4, as Grilled were smashed on the counter by Bartolomé Nil. Common sense would indicate that the Birds were completely spent and entirely done, something that the Kim Tae Hee FC players appeared to finally believe. They were wrong, and definitively demonstrated to be so as the Birds rallied with a freedom afforded by forlorn hope. Egan's unsighted backheel was almost too casual for a park kickabout, but it was just what Grilled required to unlock the Kim defence. Vikram Mudaliar
built upon it with a pass disguised as a kick-and-run, and substitute Hoàng Trung Quá
reaped the rewards with a sensational goal off the underside of the bar.
What had happened had barely registered, when Kim Tae Hee FC's lead was cut to just one. Again, they placed outsized confidence in their positional supremacy, and once more they would pay for it. One just couldn't rely on standard logic against Chan Ze Han
, who possessed the skill to fool the best of defenders, when he was up to it. He certainly was at this point, as he shredded Trang's defensive stance with a subtle shuffle-step, before burying a grounder into the far corner of the net.
Given how both Grilled players and supporters were roused, it was probably a bad decision for Noubaryan to take Chan off for Moey Xin Seng
at the peak of the former's glory, though it could be argued that Moey was well capable of comparable Herculean efforts too. It just wouldn't be this day, sadly.