The Birds retained their Worldwide Allgäu-Guests III title quite spectacularly, by trading goals with Maldives flagbearers Ocean Pro Helengeli non-stop during regulation time, before blowing them apart with three in extra time.
This final between the clubs currently placed atop their respective nations was definitely eagerly awaited, and there was no lack of customers waiting to get in on the action. Grilled stayed with their usual 2-5-3, though with Gene Filippone
and Lee Lee Hao
manning the rear after being underutilized over the weekend. This was met by Ocean's orthodox 3-5-2, revolving around South Korean ex-international Dae-Sung Choi's distribution from the hole.
The biggest pre-game controversy was definitely the absence of tournament leading scorer Rinor Isufi
, who was instead relegated to the bench in favour of Chow Ying Lee
. With Arthur Hoogervorst just one behind him in the scoring stakes, Isufi had good reason not to be happy with the arrangement, and he could barely disguise his scowl as he sat back in the dugout.
With or without Isufi, however, there would be fireworks. Ocean Pro Helengeli had conceded just five goals in their five tournament fixtures, while hitting twenty-seven, but Grilled themselves surprisingly had the same defensive record, racking up an astonishing 32. It was thus not that obvious as to which side of the teams would turn up, and the first ten minutes suggested a tight affair that could well be decided by a single strike.
This scenario would quickly be dismissed, as Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
opened the scoring with a creative chip over Ocean's goalie Azan Shaahee - no known relation of the Birds' previous winger Shiya. All pretense at tactical planning were thrown aside after that, and the Maldives club turned the tables within four minutes. Tall German box-to-box midfielder Johann-Peter Schellewald managed an exhilarating unsupported dribble inside, which local favourite son Dam Hameed followed up with a cultured left-footed bender, after cutting across Filippone.
The ping-pong continued. Chow Ying Lee
more than merited his inclusion as the wrestled the lead back from Ocean, first drilling it in from the right in the 20th minute, and then stealing it off Schellewald's telegraphed pass from a free-kick, to assist Mohd Safri in a refreshingly direct maneuver. Schellewald then blasted an attempt well wide, but Spanish forward Robustiano Valderrama would equalise on their very next attack, thanks to Throo Mohamed's floating cross.
Then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the free-for-all stopped. With the six goals having gained an advantage for neither team, and the heart-bursting tempo beginning to take an effect, it was as if the players had somehow agreed to an unspoken truce. There were a few half-hearted assaults in the remaining time in the half, but nothing that truly threatened either goalkeeper.
The second half was almost a mirror of the first, as the clubs once more jostled for position, albeit with the clock ticking. Ocean congested the middle in respose to Grilled's menacing incursions, and it was up to Mohamed and Low to get things moving. It would be the Maldives winger who proved the more effective, though, with Mohamed sending a screamer past Wong Tian Han
in the 57th minute, while Low's best contribution was an abortive cross with Tian Yonghang
At that, young opposition head coach Waldemar Hößlin signalled for his team to concentrate on defending the lead - only for it to have the opposite effect, as the Birds battered down the doors. Grilled's forward line could come on something fierce when they wanted to, and Mohd Safri was certainly in that mood. With 74 minutes gone, he angled in his hat-trick goal from the corner of the box, despite Ocean's defenders having covered everyone else in range.
Chow Ying Lee
then volleyed the Birds into a 5-4 lead, but any hopes that it would be enough were thwarted in a couple of minutes, as a sudden overlap from the previously-reserved Ralf Biskupsky overwhelmed Lee Lee Hao
on the left side, and Brazilian Celso Borges nodded it in at the near post. With Grilled not willing to risk it in the last ten minutes, and Ocean in response not eager to venture either, extra time was inevitable.
With memories of their lack of bite against Edbe FC the last time this happened still fresh in their minds, Grilled hurried to take the initiative. Happily for them, it worked almost beyond their wildest expectations, as Ocean Pro Helengeli's dedication to covering ground finally caught up with them. This forced them into a passive strategy, which played right into Grilled's style, and Mohd Safri got the Birds ahead in the 107th minute as their defenders flagged.
It was soon a free-for-all as Ocean's formerly-iron will faltered, and a lapse of judgment by skipper Paul Regimbald saw Zhu Changchun
sneak in to put the final past them. Chow Ying Lee
's burst of speed to record Grilled's eighth was frankly unnecessary by then, as was Woon Shun An
's ultimately-unsuccessful ambitious attempt from out wide with five minutes remaining.