Skirting The Fringe
Islom It Is
The Birds progressed in the Singapore Sapphire Challenger Cup comfortably enough, as they dictated the direction of their fixture against II.1's Sarcastic Fringeheads. Pedigree-wise, the Fringeheads were right up there, affiliated as they are with former Major League winners Cleveland Force. They certainly had the look of a well-organized team about them, but with Italian head coach Tommaso Stilli intent on blooding his reserves in midfield, Grilled always had to have the upper hand here.
As it was, Prokop Mottl
had also been granted a valuable starting opportunity due to his good work in training, and the young Czech endeavoured to make the most of it. An open battle took place in the first few minutes as Fringeheads sought to blunt the Birds' attacking ardour by defending in depth, but it perhaps backfired when Islom Davlatov
picked up the ball outside the box, before prancing in to dispatch a perfect grounder to the far post.
This was not quite what Fringeheads had prepared themselves to deal with, and with veteran Peter Børgh plodding about by his lonesome up top, with no suitable reinforcements on the bench, it wasn't apparent who they could turn to. This was made all the worse when influential captain and former Czech youth international Radomír Adam was felled in the 14th minute by Yuta Nakakita
, as he attempted to make things happen from fullback.
Finnish utility replacement Roope Husu, while experienced enough, was simply not as adept at the role Adam played, which was definitely to the Birds' liking. Having few other realistic options, the opponents defended stoutly with an eye on the break, but ended up having their endurance chipped away by Grilled's economical offence instead.
Sensing the Fringeheads defence slowing, Islom Davlatov
upped the stakes as the half neared its end, and he was unlucky to see his shot hit the bar, after beating three on the dribble. Grilled pressed on, and after Rodolphe Bérnicot saved spectacularly from Florus Romijn
's diving header in the next minute, they made it 2-0 from the ensuing free-kick. Moey Xin Seng
headed it on in the expectation that someone had the back post covered, and Kalki Parvathaneni
was that guy.
would be denied a third as Bérnicot pulled out all the stops to keep Fringeheads' fading odds from collapsing entirely, but to tell the truth, it was difficult to how a revival might occur, with Børgh completely isolated from his disjointed midfield support.
Fringeheads had learnt from their initial shortcomings, and came out rather sharper after the break, if not quite enough to really threaten. Still, their midfield began to get involved a lot more, which kept Grilled's honest.
They were not totally out of the woods, though, as Parvathaneni's superior mobility in particular began to ask some very good questions about Fringeheads' backline. Tan Aik Shi, their famous sweeper-keeper, did nothing wrong for Grilled's previous goals, but he could probably have kept an eye out for Mohammad Ramli Saliman
's through pass in the 67th. Fortunately for him, Bérnicot refused to commit himself early, and stayed in good position to deal with the lob.
The French goalkeeper had to be on his toes again as Parvathaneni next wowed with a bicycle kick effort, that he barely clawed around his post. Fringeheads could hardly forfeit now given all that Bérnicot had done for them, and they would begin to advance in earnest; substitute Roope Husu arranged himself to shoot in the 79th minute, but Yuki Irie
was on hand to nick it in time.
Fringeheads would cobble together their first and only shot on target of the game together a couple of minutes after that, and a very good one it was too. Mottl was too cynical in his charge at Roman Sirot, and Tan lined up a tremendous free-kick, that Valentin Batâr
had however nicely anticipated. That would be it for their hopes, with Georgi Lesov blowing for time on the dot.