End Of The Road
Without Sid and Bona, Grilled battled courageously at a sell-out Konoha Village only to fall to two second-half goals after briefly taking the lead. Young midfielders Terkel Borup
and Lee Jie Siong
gave it their best shot at the fullback positions, but their lack of experience in the role proved to be fatal against the blindside runs of Grondin and Stukalov.
With the match being an all-West affair, Grilled's supporters were out in force and rallied behind their team in the visitors' quarter. Grilled's plan was obvious even before the match, as only overwhelming possession would give them a fighting chance against a superbly balanced Uchiha squad. They would line up in something of a diamond formation, with Fredgård the only man staying back and Borup and Jie Siong ahead of him, with a lot of ground to cover. Martinsson also played deeper then he was used to, in the hole behind Kadak.
Of course, a reason why such formations aren't common is that they have their glaring weaknesses and can be exploited by more conventional, stable ones; Sadly, Grilled simply didn't have players of sufficient quality to cover in defence, with the best option, player-coach Alcántara, bluntly admitting that he would probably just embarass himself. Therefore, all he could do was to play to Grilled's not-inconsiderable strengths and hope for the best.
As expected, Grilled's defence was an organisational shambles, and former FC Tenochtitlán striker Hyu-i scored from Uchiha's first shot on target. Fredgård was woefully exposed by Jie Siong's failure to track back, and in guarding Asmawi bin Taufek couldn't have done more to protect his keeper from Hyu-i's usual booming shot.
Grilled had their moments, however, and short stretches of rapier-sharp passing gave their fans reason to believe. There was no shortage of volunteers to help out in midfield, and they managed to frustrate the home team by not giving the ball up. Then, with the game pared down to walking pace, van Liere's vision blew the opposition away.
Spying Kadak slipping away from his lone marker out of the corner of his eye, van Liere hit the ball without warning some thirty metres crossfield. Peter Palmsjö made a failed attempt to intercept, and could only watch from the ground as Kadak collected the ball coolly and threaded it between Eustacio Perez and the right post.
Grilled were the team on top now, and Uchiha's Portuguese wingback António Celeste was booked had to give up a free-kick against van Liere's marauding sprints. Sid was again missed as Han Kok skied it dreadfully. Four minutes later, Uchiha were struck another blow as Göran Dyrling came out hobbling after a clash with Kek-Tjiang. Vladimir Stukalov, from Belarus, was his replacement.Quah Han Kok
then set pulses racing with a stylish on-the-run strike that left Perez wrongfooted. Darting from left to right, the former U-20 international found all angles covered, but improvised with a cutting drive back to the left side that found its way into the bottom corner.
Alas, while it had taken Han Kok quite a bit of imagination to craft that, Uchiha were soon back on level terms with another giveaway. Again, it was Hyu-i who provided the finishing touch, but Fredgård was once more checkmated in a two-on-one situation. As the Uchiha players wheeled away in celebration, the miffed central defender looked as though he had some choice words for the negligent Borup, but instead turned away with a resigned look - it wasn't the lad's calling, after all.
Still, going into half-time with a draw could be considered an achievement for a crippled Grilled side, but the question was whether their tired legs could hold out. It was evident that while Grilled could pose a threat, they were never going to get easy potshots, while their makeshift defence meant that about every serious Uchiha attack was likely a goal. It was always going to be touch and go, and true to predictions, Grilled were taken down in short order.
Stukalov, the substitute, earned the ire of Grilled's fans by falling across Jie Siong's feet in the 49th minute hoping to earn something, but he was to play a prominent part in eliminating Grilled from the Cup. First, he placed a ball perfectly into the path of Canadian attacking midfielder Paul-Francois Grondin, who cut inside Borup expertly with one touch before rifling a grounder out of Sulaiman's reach.
American winger Norbert Connolly then drove the stake in, outpacing a visibly exhausted Jie Siong on the right flank. With no-one ahead of him, Connolly got inside the penalty area before lifting a clever cross over the gathered masses in the center to Stukalov, who was waiting at the left post. Stukalov didn't even have to jump to cushion a measured header over Sulaiman to put the game beyond Grilled.
To rub salt into the wounds, Grilled nearly lost their last true defender on the hour mark to a nasty sliding challenge from former U-20 defender Hairuddin bin Mohamed. Fredgård was in a bad way, but valiantly limped his way through a quiet last thirty minutes as Uchiha, two goals in front, were content to let Grilled beat their heads against a brick wall for the remainder of the game.