Bottom O' The Stocking
Pawłowski Plays Santa
It happened, as the Birds sunk to their lengthiest-ever competitive losing streak, recording an eighth loss in a row at The EV. Not that many expected otherwise, with odds as low as one to ten for the hosts, given that a capitulating Djan Bacelar
had named Kalki Parvathaneni
and Chu Xin Lee
as his starting forwards, alongside Rinor Isufi
This was a gift to The EV, who took all of four minutes to soak in the holiday cheer; although Grilled had won 5-2 in the reverse fixture - the only league victory they are likely to take out of this season - they were a very different prospect here. Gencho Mintzev cut by an Ang Leong Kum
who looked like he was going through the motions, and big Pole Tomasz Pawłowski rammed the cross in, with a direct thundering header.
As for the Birds, they had a strange air of resignation about them - which however was not unjustified, given that their relegation from Division Two had long been confirmed. Actually, the trial of Kalki and Chu up top was not without its logic, as the two youngsters did not want for application. Although the end product wasn't there, it is not hard to imagine, that they might have learnt something from this.
It was no help on the day, though, and The EV carried on punching their way through Grilled's awkward setup, given that they posed next to no threat. Leaving their defence temptingly thin, The EV focused their attentions on the wings, and Mintzev in particular had a great time on the left. Ang was well below his usual standards in his coverage, and let through a low ball in the 20th minute, that the breaking Ho Jing Ah reached.
When Grilled claimed their consolation goal at last, it came off a bit of worldliness from Albanian veteran Rinor Isufi
. It was probably one of the oldest tricks in the book, his nonchalent sneaking up from behind on Mario Velasco as the opposition captain motioned his team forward for a long free-kick. Then again, it wasn't just Velasco at fault, given that Sean Huseklepp should really have recognized what was happening, and he thus had little to complain about when Isufi stole it, turned around before Velasco realised what had happened, and stuck the reducer in.
This significantly brightened up the visiting fans' day, and Grilled upped their game for a stretch, with Chu even hinting at an equaliser with a stammering but unexpectedly effective dribble. It didn't last long, sadly, and Pawłowski notched his second from Ho's fine corner in the 41st minute. It then became 4-1 as The EV countered Grilled's rash kick-off gambit, Mateusz Dziewoński coming in off the right side to slide it past the harried Valentin Batâr
All in all, it wasn't too far off what most pundits had predicted would come of the match, though the Birds' continued timidity in possession had to be concerning. They would swing between that and unwarranted brashness in the second half, which hardly improved matters. Neeraj Muthyala
's senseless square pass across the breadth of the pitch was easily picked off in the 54th minute, and it was only bad finishing from Ramprasad Mittal that saved him from the repercussions.
Not for too long, however, as the old double act struck again. Once more, it was Mintzev who began it, the Bulgarian winger winding Ang up with his non-stop runs. That said, there was some variation as he knocked it forward for Dziewoński, who had occupied Hoàng Trung Quá
till the last instant, and it was Dziewoński who lifted it in for Pawłowski to complete his hat-trick of headers.
This was hardly the aerial delivery that Grilled had been hoping for, but The EV were at least prepared to be charitable, and held off on further embarassment. It was mostly calm as the Birds made their substitutions of the day, with Gene Filippone
relieving Yuki Irie
- who had actually been as decent as could have been expected - in the 75th. Five minutes later, Tian Yonghang
came on for Isufi, and admirably managed to re-inject some positivity into Grilled's play, not that it availed them much.