4 - 1 Grilled Birds
Gerardo's Great Sense
The Birds were kept to a single goal in a league match for the first time since the 3-0 defeat to Red Freaking Chilies two seasons ago, as hosts JUtd were simply immaculate in all departments. Only Tian Yonghang
's continued brillance kept Grilled from trudging home without a consolation, but even he was eclipsed by Italian forward Gerardo Senesi, who was sheer magic in the last third of the game.
Grilled had reason enough to expect a result, despite JUtd having forced a draw at The Cooking Pot earlier in the season, with Tian in top form and the midfield in fine shape too. This was as JUtd were without a win in five league matches, eight including friendlies, although few critics could fault their quality overmuch.
It all had to come together sometime, and if wingback wizard Maximiliano Domínguez had gone slightly off the boil - despite remaining joint-third on the top scorers' table with eight goals - a side with the likes of Tayfun Sarayköy in midfield and Senesi up front was simply too good for their recent run.
The Birds did have more control, but what has been unspoken at The Cooking Pot finally had to be confronted, with talismanic forward Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
clearly out of it. The Grilled star misplaced even the most straightforward of passes, and was a completely different animal from that which hit a hat-trick in the midweek friendly.
It got so bad that his teammates quietly kept him out of the loop, but this was not enough to save them from going behind. The eagerness of Domínguez to get up and attack has rattled far better backlines than Grilled's, what more with a still defensively-suspect Ling Fuquan
on his wing, and few could honestly be surprised when he headed in unmarked from a cross by Spanish skipper Antonio Guridi.
The Birds were getting completely stuffed in the air, and after Senesi got his name taken down for a mistimed tackle on Zhu Changchun
, JUtd's other wingback Raul Gabriël nodded home from a corner, with Seytek Djekshenkulov
occupied with Domínguez and the erstwhile reliable Mohd Safri conspicuously listless.
Luckily, Grilled had others to rely upon, and Tian Yonghang
extended his latest scoring streak to five matches after breaking through the middle with a slick dragback. It was a fitting way to mark his milestone hundredth competitive start for Grilled, as well as being his 75th goal.
However, such statistics count for little in the bigger picture, and the Birds' best hopes to spark a rally faded when Mohd Safri put it into the bar after being dealt a sitter by a combination of Chow Ying Lee
's vision and a lucky deflection. On a normal day, there would be no other man that Grilled supporters would want such a chance to fall to, but it was clear that there was something wrong with their hero.
Worse, Mohd Safri did not even look especially pained at the horrific miss, which would have been his usual reaction, and Niculae Stanca
made the unprecedented move of getting the 32 year-old Djan Bacelar
to warm up on the sidelines. In the end, the head coach decided to keep faith with Mohd Safri, but it would not come good this time.
If he wasn't going to assert his dominance, Gerardo Senesi was only too happy to, and Qassem Madaini
found him in an unguardable mode. Tricky at the best of times, Senesi left Madaini glancing about like a high school defender in the 63rd minute with an outrageous scissors dribble, and passed in a timely manner only for Domínguez to strike the foot of the post. No matter, Antonio Guridi recovered and threaded it back in, and Senesi was there to complete the job himself.
3-1 up, JUtd felt it safe to rest the ever-improving Yao Erfu for big Zygmunt Gwizd, who provided another towering target for their wingers. It was a low cross that did Grilled in eventually, though, as Rasmus Grønkjær took advantage of the Birds' defence conservatively clustering together, to find Senesi with loads of space on the edge of the penalty area. The Italian then indelibly put his stamp on the match with a precise chip.
more or less threw in the towel at this point, and his two late substitutions had little impact on a result that was long decided.