Kün Touch This
A routine result became a frantic scramble for points against Really McCoys, with the visitors riding high on their faultless chance-taking. It would take a mammoth last-gasp barrage for the Birds to fix their win, and claim the just desserts for a day that had begun so brightly.
It was not an exaggeration either, with a fully-fit Moey Xin Seng
taking his place in the midst of the attacking line, as Islom Davlatov
had put himself out of contention. Yuta Nakakita
thus returned to midfield, in turn leaving his defensive spot to Yuki Irie
, also coming back from injury - and what a return it would be for him.
Although Grilled had beaten the McCoys on both their previous league meetings, it hadn't been exactly a cakewalk either of those times, as Fredrik Rönnlund's men played to target the Birds' weak points. The longtime Adelfas United head coach had carried his preference for sharp, short passing over, but has been more than willing to adapt his team's strategy as required.
There was hardly time enough for that today though, as the Birds opened on their first, sustained, possession. Mohammad Ramli Saliman
was a metronome as he strung play together in midfield, giving his colleagues the assurance they needed to advance, before springing the trap with a defence-splitting ball to Chu Xin Lee
. It was returned to the unlikely target of Yuki Irie
, but if the visitors heaved a sigh of relief at that, they should really not have, as Yuki lifted a brilliant lob over a stunned Eduard Frani.
But to be fair, many of Yuki's teammates apparently didn't think he had that in his arsenal either, going by the awkward delay before they rushed to congratulate him. There was no want of ambition from the Birds after that electric start, but Really McCoys demonstrated their mettle, by tying Grilled's wingers up through disciplined doubling-up. Kalki Parvathaneni
attempted to help by hustling Bolivian fullback Roque Moreno aside, but only copped a yellow card after the canny Moreno went down like a sack of potatoes.
Parvathaneni would bear a second great disappointment as the hour mark neared, with McCoys somehow not further behind - turning on the afterburners, he ensured that nobody was likely to best him in the chase to Cyril Künzler
's cross, only for it to come comedically off the back of his head. Within seconds, Teodovico Bahamondes had creamed the crossbar with a mighty strike at the other end, allowing Fabrizio Fornesi the easy follow-up.
With that, McCoys had likewise converted their first serious attack. Djan Bacelar
was noticeably furious at that, and the Birds hastened to escape his rage somewhat, by retaking the lead through Künzler's bullet free-kick. Wastefulness continued to plague their goal-getters, however, as Parvathaneni drew groans with a good strike that nevertheless had been held too long, before Moey Xin Seng
sent his headed attempt sailing over.
Still, there was no cause to panic overly yet for Grilled, as they ostensibly held all the advantages. Fornesi's equaliser was looking more and more like a flash in the pan as Grilled asserted control of the second half within short minutes, and with Neeraj Muthyala
starting to bomb forward with increasing frequency, a third goal felt like merely a matter of waiting.
Not quite, it turned out, as Really McCoys began playing their trumps. A mostly-spent Scottish forward Colm Britton, who had done the necessary thing in dropping back to help out, was replaced by local reserve Gerry Kim, who thereby made his first official appearance in almost one-and-a-half seasons. It was questionable if he had much of a role in Teodovico Bahamondes' leveller a minute after he came on, but he certainly wasn't about to be left out of the backslapping.
Encouraged, Rönnlund swopped Greek for Greek, with Theofanis Peponas replacing Kostas Tafakis in midfield. Again, the immediate effects were difficult to ascertain, but what was indisputable was that Kalki Parvathaneni
had much to work on, in striking terms. He had oft been derided as a sprinter first and foremost, especially during his earlier years; watching him take his time making up his mind in scoring positions, one had to wonder if this description remains current.
This inability to find another breakthrough only added to Grilled's general anxiety, as a game that was by all accounts safely in the bag was looking ever more likely to end in a poor draw. And then, it got worse - with just ten minutes remaining, Moey Xin Seng
's unconvincing feint in the box was read perfectly by the McCoys defence, which then bypassed the midfield entirely with a big clearance. A couple of expansive passes later, Rain Lakspere had put McCoys ahead, thundering tirelessly up the left side.
It was a terribly bitter pill for the Grilled players to swallow, and one could catch Yuki Irie
visibly wincing, as he looked on from the sidelines, having just been replaced by Gene Filippone
. McCoys were rocking it now, and Bahamondes gave no quarter to Valentin Batâr
, as the duo competed for a high ball. Batâr ultimately came away with it, but only after sustaining a knock to his calf.
Grilled's fate seemed sealed after they passed up one of the best chances of the game, from a corner kick randomly flicked to the back post by Chu Xin Lee
. Reigning Player of the Season Hoàng Trung Quá
was well-positioned to tap it in, as he had done so often recently, but Hoàng's golden touch for once deserted him, and the chance went begging, prompting more than a few home fans to stand up and leave.
They would regret it this time, though. The Birds' number would finally come up with five minutes left, as Cyril Künzler
's uncomplaining hard work down the right side finally came to fruition. After countless crosses and corners, he would take it inside by himself, and quite wisely trusted in his own shooting prowess this time. Frani got his fingertips onto the shot, but it wasn't nearly enough to prevent it from blowing past him, and into the opposite top corner.
McCoys would probably have counted a draw as an acceptable result, but even that was lost to them, as substitute Gene Filippone
sent the remaining fans into a frenzy with his 86th minute winner. Grilled had long abandoned all pretenses at elegance by then, but they were if anything the more effective for that, and Florus Romijn
achieved the assist that all his previous craft had not managed, with a wild strike deflected up for the Swiss defender to put his forehead to.