Kamat Sets Stage
The setback kept coming for Grilled as they lost to -Blitz- for the third time in a row, as the hosts raised themselves considerably at ReducedToRubble. With Moey Xin Seng
still unavailable, Islom Davlatov
would continue dictating in central midfield, but it was just not the same as the Birds paled beside to -Blitz-'s aggressive stance.
While much was made of their new strike combination of Rogger Oscate and Franz Schachner, -Blitz-'s heartbeat remained local international Gagan Kamat, whose famed speed appeared largely intact despite reaching the big 30. It didn't take long before the Birds were forced into a narrow formation, as -Blitz- struck a high tempo in possession.
Grilled were not exactly lacking in pace themselves, with Kalki Parvathaneni
available to help Romijn out with Kamat, but there was a strange passivity about their operation. This would be costly under the circumstances, as Kamat went off on one of his inspired rampages in the 18th minute, showing both a clean pair of heels; Yuki Irie
was certainly not equipped to deal with him alone, and a sick spin-slash saw Kamat set himself up for a electrifying opener.
This was bad enough in itself, what followed was a direct indictment of Grilled's mentality. Vikram Mudaliar
tried to inject some energy with a direct burst, and after he expectedly lost the ball after a respectable advance, the Birds were found complely wanting down their right flank yet again. There was a distinct lack of responsibility as nobody wanted to confront Kamat, and despite Oscate doing his part with a well-time support run, this was a goal that should have been eminently preventable.
There was no time for recriminations, though, and besides, Grilled had enough to think about. Neeraj Muthyala
, deployed in an unfamiliar role as left forward, drew a scare when he crumpled to the ground without warning in the 30th minute; fortunately, it turned out to be simply a sudden cramp.
The break in play did his team a world of good, but Grilled would continually be let down by poor decision-making up top, as Chan and Muthyala worked on a different wavelength from Vikram Mudaliar
. It took Cyril Künzler
doing it all by himself to catch Antonio Hernalsteen's attention for real in the 33rd minute, but the Polish winger cut it a tad too close. Romijn delivered a couple of minutes later, but this time it was Islom Davlatov
who couldn't reach the cross.
Overall, it had to be a disappointing effort from the Birds, who fell behind their foes both in invention and spirit. The rainy weather was hardly an excuse as -Blitz-'s players sloshed through the water-logged grass with infinitely more purpose, and Grilled had to thank Yuta Nakakita
for preserving what little chance at a comeback that they had left.
The monsoonal rain raised reasonable hopes of the match being abandoned - certainly by one set of fans more than the other - but referee Dieter Berkesheim soldiered on with grim Teutonic determination. Hovaness Noubaryan
weighed his options, with Iman Eshrafi
the obvious pick to try and revitalize a seriously flagging offence, but he went for Hoàng Trung Quá
As if it couldn't get any worse, the match officials failed to spot Nie Tze Chao's little nudge on Islom Davlatov
as the latter tried to get on a rare opportunity, instead probably attributing it to a slip. Nie's response to Davlatov's man-to-man accusation wasn't appreciated by the bedraggled Uzbek, who responded by pushing his face into the -Blitz- captain's. Berkesheim wasn't having any of that, and Davlatov was off.
Ironically, the dismissal would lead into the long-delayed Grilled reply, as Chu Xin Lee
's speculative pass from deep split the -Blitz- lines, with some help from the slow pitch. Mudaliar saw his path blocked off by Danil Labutin, but Neeraj Muthyala
was available to make it 2-1.
Sensing a turnaround, Noubaryan hastened to replace the tired goalscorer with Iman Eshrafi
, but this had the opposite of the intended effect if anything. In their urgency to find the equaliser, Grilled left rather too few men behind, and Yuta Nakakita
couldn't catch Ricardo Rey cutting in with a headstart on -Blitz-'s very next advance. Valentin Batâr
floundered, as the strike skipped through his gloves.
Not letting up, -Blitz- would follow up with an absolute coup de grâce, as a thoroughly-defeated Grilled team went through the motions. Giorgio Monari met shamefully little resistance as he went through next, as -Blitz- installed themselves as firm favourites for the title this term.