|Season 63||L||4 - 0||League|
|Season 62||W||1 - 5||League|
|Season 62||L||1 - 4||League|
|Season 53||W||2 - 6||Tournament (Group Phase)|
Down With Heads Up
The One True Skipper
If the Birds had to go down, it would at least not be on the back of yet another crushing defeat - Tian Yonghang
would make sure of that. Despite being almost 38 years of age, he remained a cut above his teammates in terms of pure class, and it would ironically be his 146th league goal, putting him level with Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim for the club record, that would breathe new hope into Grilled's refreshing squad.
Despite Grilled's farewell to II.1 being held at The Cooking Pot, not many expected them to make much of it, and for good reason. Club Dinosauria were third in the table coming into the game, and from how national forward duo Ma Jing and Cheong Tse Jian had absolutely murdered their backline in the season opener, there didn't seem much call for a steadily-deteriorating Grilled side to hold them this time round.
The paltry home turnout sadly reflected that sentiment, but it would be a different story on the pitch. Instant excitement was supplied, as Ma Jing blew all comers apart with a direct divebomb into the Grilled box. A monster clearance by Gene Filippone
led to a mad scramble at the other end, though, and referee Fausto D'Angelo sensationally blew for the penalty, after Moey Xin Seng
went down with Paweł Michalczyk leaning into him.
This decision was bitterly contested by the Polish sweeper, who was vindicated in the end, as Dariusz Kiełbasa saved Yuki Irie
's hesitant take, to loud groans from the home fans. Quite surprisingly, the vice-captain would personally make up for it in the eleventh minute; his awkward control from Ang Leong Kum
's flighted long pass benefitted by throwing off the defence, and he caught the ball well with his ensuing volley, despite stumbling onto it.
It might not have been a wholly-deserved lead, but the Birds were more than happy to take it. With Belgian playmaker Andy Dahm not having the best of days, and some motivated running by the midfield, they would make it to the half-hour mark mostly unscathed, to the consternation of Ma and Cheong.
Expecting the visitors to be shut out indefinitely was probably too much, however, and they would get their equaliser in the 33rd. Cheong wreaked havoc on the right side, taking Clark Won
and Yuki Irie
for a ride with a spin move that would have been termed showboating, had it not been so effective. Having exposed Grilled's defence, he then lifted it in towards late-arriving Brazilian midfielder Jocimar Schmidt, who finished matter-of-factly with a textbook header.
Grilled might still have entered half-time with the lead, but D'Angelo would ignore what seemed like a clear penalty, after Chu Xin Lee
was bundled over by Kiełbasa right in front of goal. Chu motioned disbelievingly, lying prone after being wiped out, but the referee appeared determined to make up for his earlier borderline call, and a relieved Kiełbasa got rid of the ball at the first opportunity.
The second half saw Hoàng Trung Quá
take over from Gene Filippone
, and the Birds somehow going from strength to strength. Interestingly, their attempts would come from strange sources, with Rinor Isufi
off his game. Yuki Irie
had put in more than his fair share of pots after scoring, and Neeraj Muthyala
and Chu weren't shy about going for it, either.
Nothing doing against the hardened Deinos defence, and it would instead be the visitors who appeared certain to go ahead, in the 75th minute. Ma Jing unleashed a rocket from the edge of the box that Valentin Batâr
miraculously pushed onto the upright, and Grilled even managed a counterpush up the left side. Clark Won
's cross was too obvious, unfortunately, and Yuta Nakakita
could only manage a weak shot under close guard.
With ten minutes to go, Isufi was replaced by Tian Yonghang
- a substitution that honestly should have gone through much earlier. Indeed, he showed why with his first touch, a thing of beauty that left Michalczyk leaning hopelessly the wrong way. It was all Michalczyk could do to pull Tian down before he got through, and he was very lucky to stay on, thanks to Yalçın Erün making him technically not the last man.
Erün's speed would serve him well at the other end as well. With the Grilled defenders' concentration at breaking point, due to the constant deadly threat of Deinos' forwards, Erün would be left with Mohammad Ramli Saliman
to beat, after several considered passes had set up this mismatch. Hoàng debated between moving over and leaving Ma over and figured that letting Erün free was the lesser threat, but the Cypriot fullback proved him wrong, with a fine left-footed whack.
The home fans would be up in arms two minutes later, as the Birds fought desperately to avoid a ninth straight loss. Chu Xin Lee
wouldn't give up, and appeared to be first to Muthyala's nice diagonal ball, only to have his jersey tugged by Boris Pedersen. None of the officials spotted that, to Chu's rage, but Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez de Solar nearly gifted a goal anyway with his absent-minded backpass. Devastatingly, Ang Leong Kum
slipped when executing the finish.
With their sad fate apparently set in stone, Bacelar had new signing Jérémy Tarin
pick up his debut appearance, as Saliman trudged over the take the throw-in. This meant the outgoing Yuki Irie
returning the armband to Tian, though, and with it back with its rightful owner, magic was in store.
The home supporters had steadily been filing out of the exits once Erün's goal went in, but the few that remained were in for a classic treat. There seemed so little threat when it was played to Tian's feet some forty yards out, but when he then flicked it almost thoughtlessly over Eliacín Maripillán's sliding challenge, it was a hint that something special was going to happen.
Never known for his pace, Tian rolled back the years as he took out defender after defender, and he got past three further tackles with little more than precise close control. After that, with Pedersen closing in, he raised his head and judged that Kiełbasa was marginally off his line... and sent a lob into the sole vulnerable slice of the far top corner that the goalie had left open, just like that.
It was a quite stunning demonstration of the mastery over the scoring craft that the legendary veteran had cultivated over twenty-one long seasons, and encapsulated all that was great about his style. Even the opponents seemed to recognize that, although the blow was certainly softened by this being a mostly inconsequential match for them, anyway.
Ma Jing for one was not content at it ending up like this, and he would nearly force the win, coming through the middle and making the most of a good bounce from a raking through ball. Grilled would have Batâr to thank for protecting their point, as their much-maligned goalkeeper scooted across goal just in time to tip the on-target grounder behind.
A draw it would be after all, and Ma would honour a worthy foe, swapping shirts with Tian immediately after the final whistle. It could well be the last time they would play on the same pitch, after all.