VSV Close Door
Farhod Hits Spot
Northern Irish third division side VSV BackClose knew what they were after, with a steep-trap five man defence, and Uzbek midfielder Farhod Abduqodirov's 61st minute goal would sound the death knell for Grilled. Abduqodirov's S$14.3 million price tag might have been inflated to some pundits, but that was of little consolation when he slotted it in from the left.
VSV BackClose weren't in the greatest of positions after a 0-2 loss last week, and they further had to endure a nerve-wracking 7-8 elimination on penalties, to Belfast Utd in the national cup. All this would be vented against in-administration Interurmam in the league, with Romanian midfielder Andrei Opriş hat-tricking in a 10-1 slaughter.
Opriş would start against Grilled in a 5-4-1, and it was a testament to their reputations that Abduqodirov and Australian forward Harvey Allsopp were still considered more likely to have the greater influence. Their French gaffer Étienne De Sousa adopted a cautious attitude, as could be inferred from the formation, and they would seek to break with pace down the wings.
This implicitly yielded possession to the Birds to show what they could do, and the first half was indeed peppered with decent openings. First up was Cyril Künzler
's drifting deep cross from a free-kick in the eighth minute, but opposition keeper Peter Waterhouse literally grabbed that off Kalki Parvathaneni
's head. Chan Ze Han
would mess up his chest control for once in the 16th, though Islom Davlatov
nearly made something out of it, shaving the crossbar as he nudged himself into position. Some players wouldn't have taken that well, but thankfully Chan was understanding.
Grilled's biggest misses would come around the half-hour mark, beginning with Vikram Mudaliar
's strike against the post, following one of Bernie Egan
's signature direct rampages straight through the middle. The VSV BackClose backline was at sixes and sevens then, and Kalki was calling for it, completely free by himself, when Chan retrieved the rebound. Chan didn't realize that, sadly, as he let fly from way outside instead. In his defence, it wasn't that far off.
This was about it as opportunities went, for a half that VSV BackClose had to be the happier to see the end of. They would come out of the tunnel a rather more enterprising side, and would threaten Massoud Dob
's goal for the first time, shortly after the restart. Abduqodirov gave free rein to his considerable balance and agility as he weaved past several less-than-committed tackles, and Dob was fortunate that he lost his feet momentarily after the last one.
Abduqodirov would remember that experience when he next found himself clear in the 61st minute, with Webb having tried and failed to play a one-two off Künzler; Dob would come out confidently, but he hadn't figured on Abduqodirov's exquisite control, and would be rounded only too smoothly.
There was almost an immediate reply, as VSV BackClose were caught unprepared for Grilled's all-out rush from kick-off; Chan Ze Han
was very close to getting a one-on-one with Waterhouse, but Yonathan Wielhouwer just about warded the searching long ball away for a corner. That would be it for Grilled, bar a brief Neeraj Muthyala
cameo marking his long-awaited return from injury.