Shiawase Apply Tarnish
J. Leaguers Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni, who won The Emperor's Cup two seasons ago, went the distance against Grilled Birds in the second round of the Golden Trophy, and had more in the tank for pulling away in the final twelve minutes. It had been a pretty even game up until then, with the Birds arguably doing better than their opponents on the defence for once. Hungarian veteran fullback István Tóthpál would be too good coming up the left, however, as his newly-forged partnership with Albeiro Retavisca yielded three goals on its own.
Retavisca had just debuted in Shiawase's opening-day draw against Japanese legends pirxy, and had been lively but largely shackled by Mathéo Tanghe. Well, it would be a completely different system for the Birds, with Teo Chuan Yong
and Douglas Carapaica
sharing the responsibility today. This didn't always go nicely, as when a quick free-kick taken after Hiroshi Takano's yellow card offence against Moey Xin Seng
, was sent back the other way in the seventh minute. Retavisca guided his first touch to the outside and bent in an excellent cross for Youssef Habach to attack, and this would have been the first goal had the former Palestine international kept it on target.
could afford a bit of banter with his countryman after that close shave, though Shiawase continued making the better chances early on, and it would be former Cambodian U-20 forward Polang Mon - also currently the J. League's top scorer, with his brace against pirxy - to skew a low drive inches wide, in the 13th minute. Moey Xin Seng
was only too willing to show Mon how it should be done, as he drew Kenyan ex-international keeper Joshua Kahangi out two minutes later in a similar situation, before lifting it hard into the roof of the net.
That was a great goal for Moey, who had been Grilled's best performer for this period. Shiawase remained looking the more likely to score, it had to be admitted, with their 4-5-1 finding ample space behind Grilled's wingers. Retavisca going it on his own might not have worked in the 25th minute, but they would come good in the 30th. Takanori Makino was dancing as he found a way through the Birds' midfield press almost effortlessly, and with both Wayne Fernee and the hard-running István Tóthpál coming through, he went for the latter - and was repaid with an expert finish past Jānis Salmiņš
If Shiawase had a weak spot, it had to be Hiroshi at rightback, and that was exactly what Kalki Parvathaneni
kept on poking at, whenever he could. Already on a yellow, Hiroshi had to let Kalki by in the 34th minute after leaning too far out, only for the Grilled Number Ten to rue trying to spread it a little too much to the far post. Instead, it was Shiawase to take the lead several minutes on, as Retavisca hung in the air to knock Alexsandro Hayama's cross home, with Douglas' block coming a fraction late.
Half-time saw Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
replace Salah Kamel
, but not much of an uptick in the Birds' fortunes. They remained a step behind in midfield, and although the possession stats were evenly distributed, Shiawase largely made sure that Grilled had most of theirs in non-threatening areas. In fairness, Douglas and Lunde were keeping Wayne Fernee under tabs too, at least until the Dutchman blew them away in the 69th minute with a powerful charge out of the blue. Jānis Salmiņš
had to be brave as Fernee loomed, and he was.
That coincided with Heng Dong Chu
coming on with a tired-looking Kalki Parvathaneni
, whose runs at Hiroshi had not brought their intended benefit in the second half. Quite a bit of that was down to Habach's intelligent reading of the game, but that would not be enough against Chan Ze Han
's genius in the 77th minute. Chan had only grown in stature as the game progressed, and nobody could get close when he decided to line one up for himself, just inside the penalty area. The strike was fierce and almost without warning, and Kahangi barely moved before it was 2-2.
Shiawase would be back in the lead almost immediately, to Chan's visible chagrin, as Grilled became far too optimistic on pushing their case forward. The Retavisca-Tóthpál seemed like they had been playing together forever as they made their way at pace up the left side, though to be frank Salmiņš had to be favourites to stop Tóthpál's effort, given the poor angle that the fullback had been left with. He somehow managed to stick it between goalie and near post - and Salmiņš knew well that it was down to himself there.
There would not be time to overthink matters as Takanori smashed another massive strike into the woodwork five minutes later, with Salmiņš perhaps having gotten just enough on that. Grilled Birds then came very close to levelling it all up, as Vikram Mudaliar
finally got the better of ex-Iraqi national sweeper Jasoor Uuda, at long last. Mudaliar's first touch from Bilal Mohammad Harun
's forward ball was a thing of beauty that took Uuda entirely out of the equation, but Kahangi was not about to give up, and he sprang across goal to save Mudaliar's good finish aimed at the far post.
Grilled went for broke in injury time, and would be punished by Agustín Carballo on the counter, after having committed nearly everyone; this could hardly be accounted as a poor decision under the circumstances, granted.