United They Stood
Tian In Vain
Grilled's maiden attempt at traversing the newly formed national ladder ended slightly discouragingly, as a plucky -= Manchester United =- team defended their eleventh placing with an adventurous 6-4 win that exposed many of the Birds' old sores once again. Tian Yonghang
signalled that his fire hadn't gone out, as he twice put Grilled ahead in the first half, only to watch his colleagues crumble at the back towards the end.
United had just completed their fourth season in III.7, having gotten to Division Two once, and are looking to reinvent themselves with coach Steven Van Zele masterminding a full-scale clearout of unneeded players - thirteen departed during the preseason, with five moving to Westral FC, with tidy Italian midfielder Renato Vinigiu the only big name to come the other way.
What remained was, as it turned out, quite sufficient to deal with the Birds' offerings, as their S$10 million wing pair of Constantin Buda and Timmo Thode were just what they needed against Grilled. Other than that, Seytek Djekshenkulov
would enjoy a rare reunion as Valentin Bugaev started for United, and the countrymen clashed heads early on as Vittorio Bellorini sent a long ball down the channel, as is his habit.
With United not caring too much about keeping it tight either, there was always going to be goals in this matchup, and Grilled got their noses ahead in the 29th minute. lu Zunwen
might yet have a future on the wing, as his second game out wide too saw him barge through defenders with impunity. His attempt was relatively tame and wide, but Tian was prescient in staking out the far post.
United were not deterred, and they were back on level terms in two minutes. Buda, a premium S$7.65 million arrival from Romania, hastened to prove his worth by racing by Qassem Madaini
, whose slowing reflexes have become painfully apparent, to meet a fine cross. Tian then made it 2-1 with a neat take-and-shoot that was nearly marred by Djekshenkulov flattening Renato Vinigiu after the ball had gone. That made it a yellow for the want-away midfielder, and Vinigiu got instant revenge by tying it up from the free-kick.
Chow Ying Lee
, who has been somewhat under the weather of late, then snatched at a half-chance, and he had to wait till sixteen minutes into the second half to beat Italian keeper Basilio Lazzaretto from sustained attacking pressure. You might have thought that the Grilled backline would be wary of United coming at them in response, but Juan Argimón still managed to answer from the restart, though Kryus couldn't be faulted against that inch-perfect strike.
While United were looking increasingly messy up top, the Birds were even worse off, as Walter Ross
did himself no favours by failing to read Madaini's intentions time and again. The Austrian was caught embarassingly short when Vittorio Bellorini came up on his outside in the 72nd minute, and Bellorini encountered no resistance at all when lining up a successful drive for United to take the lead for the first time.
Ross' decision making was suspect again when he elected to shadow his assigned man instead of picking up Volkhardt Steinboeck's far more dangerous rush, which led to an easy fifth for United. Although Zhu Changchun
got one back for Grilled with an exquisite curler, Timmo Thode would seal victory for the opponents with a free header as Madaini couldn't keep his feet.