It was not exactly the best fixture to recover from a wipeout in the league opener, what with The EV having finished third last season, moreso having beaten the Birds in both matches then. Some fighting spirit - and a dash of luck - would see Grilled come through outstandingly, and climb above the City-based club in the table.
In The EV, Grilled would encounter a team that operated similarly to them, if arguably at a slightly higher level when on the move. They had shown good mental strength in outlasting Arcturules to win last Sunday, and would get going very quickly today. Four minutes in, Riccardo Orsi blew for a jersey tug by Gene Filippone
on dangerman Tomasz Pawłowski, and up stepped veteran midfielder Ho Jing Ah to bend the free-kick around the wall and inside the post.
The home fans could do no more than cover their face, when Hariharan Prabhu
got a palm on the ball while defending a cross, on The EV's very next advance. A rout looked to be in the making as a gleeful Ho lined up the penalty kick, but Valentin Batâr
was done getting beaten, for a time at least. He seemed to have jumped a fraction too early, but Ho couldn't redirect his shot in time either, and it turned out to be the correct decision.
Batâr would be mobbed by his grateful colleagues after that save, and this would be the start of the Birds' actual participation in the match. Marshalled by Tian Yonghang
, they would begin to direct gameplay to their liking, and Rinor Isufi
pulled them level in the 14th minute with a thoughtful curler, placed into the top left corner.
Physical challenges were coming in thick and fast as the contest hung in the balance, with the fiercest battles being fought in the middle. It all nearly boiled over when Neeraj Muthyala
bit hard into opposition pivot Mihovil Turk, leading with his studs, and he was fortunate to escape with a mere yellow. The sturdy Turk not making too much of a meal of it might have contributed.
It sure didn't get Muthyala down, and he might have scored the next goal, but his first-time sidefoot stab rolled narrowly side. Sean Huseklepp would then stand his ground against Gene Filippone
, and save from the Grilled defender, but then made the fatal mistake of trying to throw it out to Kevin Bomhöffer immediately; it was picked off by Low Aik Jia
, and Gennady Dvorak
would receive his assist.
The two were striking up a very profitable understanding, and although Low would not hit his heights today, he would still be instrumental in creating Dvorak's second. Eight minutes after the restart, the winger would embark on a sideline-hugging run, and his pullback was deflected by Isufi into the grateful Argentine's path.
While now two goals up, Grilled were hardly in the clear yet, as The EV were at pains to demonstrate. Man for man, their engine room was hardly inferior to the Birds', and it was always testing when they managed to break clear. This happened in the 62nd minute with Bomhöffer, who then put in an inviting flat cross, that Mateusz Dziewoński absolutely cannoned into the net with his forehead.
The visitors would overreach in trying to force the equaliser, however, and instead ate a rapid counter down the left side, with Low Aik Jia
again leading the charge. Yuta Nakakita
went on the overlap as support, and was utilized by Low. He then whipped it in low and hard, and despite Dvorak missing the connection, Ang Leong Kum
finished it at the far end.
This represented a stiff blow to The EV, who had gradually been working their way back into the mix, and this was exactly the sort of vulnerability that Tian Yonghang
had spent his career sniffing out. Being 37 years of age, he has had to ration his moments of activity, but as he proved in the 69th minute, he could be very fast when he needed to. Ducking inside former Honduras national defender Mario Velasco, Tian linked up brilliantly with Prabhu, and wasted no time in slamming Grilled's fifth goal home.
had been waiting for this exactly, and would take both Tian and Yuki Irie
off in a double substitution, for Mohammad Ramli Saliman
and Hoàng Trung Quá
respectively. Their instructions - to see the remaining twenty minutes out.
The EV were now in the position of having to chase the game relentlessly, if they were to get anything at all out of it, and Velasco would try to make up for his previous lapse, by stripping Low Aik Jia
of the ball. He hadn't counted on Low's awareness, though, and it ended up with him being shown the yellow card for his efforts.
could actually have buffed Grilled's goal difference further, after Ang Leong Kum
made his way through on the right side in the 74th minute, but he would only have himself to blame, for an atrocious touch, that led into a skied strike.