The Birds are out of the Asian Champions League, after Indonesian third division club Lecester city inflicted a repeat of the 4-0 that Tokyo Raccoons had imposed last week. Once again left to their own devices, Grilled's trainees did show some signs of tactical sophistication in their passing, but a lack of attacking bite let them down, against Lecester's pointed counterattacks.
Frankly speaking, Grilled had to be the underdogs even at home, given the squad that Lecester brought - Italian skipper Dino Coltro, while past his prime, remained on another level from any of the Birds' younglings, as were his fellow midfielders. The only Grilled players who were on a comparable footing were Ang Leong Kum
, again played out of position in defence, and Islom Davlatov
, today stationed wide right in a creative role.
And Davlatov might have painted a very different picture, had his little set-up in the third minute borne fruit. Unluckily for Iman Eshrafi
, he lost control of his first touch, which became the impetus for a fierce reversal by the visitors, down the same flank. Miquel Juan played the percentages with a flashy flick as Ang closed on him, and it was polished off by Palestinian defender Anas Abu Karaki, who had covered the length of the pitch on his supporting run.
Grilled collected themselves, and the greenhorn midfield actually probably did better than expected, as they more than held their own against their vastly more experienced Lecester counterparts. Sheer intensity was insufficient for a true breakthrough, however, and they were again beaten on the break in the 26th minute, as Lecester sought a way through the thinned-out left side. The danger appeared to have passed as the Birds returned in force, but they didn't count on Yonadav Tsur-Mayer slipping it stealthily to Miquel Juan, who slammed it past Krystian Rykowski
It was three-nil a few minutes after that, as the Birds buckled under a sudden onslaught. Lecester certainly knew the right moments to strike, and they turned on the heat right as Grilled's spirits dropped. The signs were there as Ahmed Pećanić
was fortunate to get away with a questionable fall, after being caught in possession by Ihar Sulyga, but that only delayed the inevitable for a bit; Jérémy Tarin
was beaten to the following through ball by tricky forward Kasimir Eekma, who had few problems finishing on the go.
, taking over the armband from José Luiz Velho
for the day, would display good leadership potential in keeping the team together despite that blow. It wouldn't lead to anything concrete, sadly, although he did draw a foul - and a yellow - from Andrej Mášik. Lecester weren't unduly concerned, and used the stoppage to replace Tsur-Mayer would with Raúl Eduardo Vago.
Lecester had a tight handle on the game, and as the second half progressed, Grilled looked no closer to scoring than before. Alejandro Domínguez and Radu Savu came on for Jaime Arteaga and Ihar Sulyga respectively as Lecester's Brazilian head coach Pedro Cestaro sought to keep his players fresh, which only made things more difficult for the Birds.
Savu's inclusion nearly came with an immediate impact, as the former Romanian national legend, capped forty-five times in an illustrious career, literally hit the ground running. The Grilled youngsters were totally flummoxed at the sight of a 38 year-old rushing at them, and Velho duly dropped the ball to the sneaky Coltro, who had guessed at his reaction. Coltro's ball to Eekma wound up to be overhit, or it would have been a likely goal.
The man himself would not be denied for much longer, and he would get his goal in the 65th. Unsurprisingly, Coltro had Savu to thank, as none of the Grilled kids could restrain the veteran, despite obvious advantages in pace. Biding his time, Savu chose exactly the correct instant to shift play back into the middle, and Alejandro Domínguez only had to execute a simple return pass, to earn an assist.
Lecester would have to slow down after that, but as this meant that they were now concentrating all their efforts on protecting their lead, Grilled wound up being even more stymied. Davlatov was the only one making any inroads, as his measured dribbling occasionally threw Andrej Mášik off, but he simply did not get enough quality support to pose a real threat to Brandon van Damme.
The underworked Dutch keeper would finally get to handle the ball after Grilled brought their own oldies on, as Tian Yonghang
sent over an ambitious fifty-yard lob, to much appreciation from the home fans. That was about as far as it got, though, and Davlatov got himself booked for trying way too hard to put van Damme off his catch.