Kal States Resolve
Home Of De Young Guns had seen the Birds earn only a single miserly point from their first three visits, but there was no doubt as to who were the favourites going in today, given that they had just spanked ArSenal eight-nil at home. Leuckert's side was brimming with pride if not exactly ability, though, and they gave Grilled a run for it - for a while at least.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the home supporters were getting extremely concerned, seeing as they were now on a seven match losing streak. Perhaps even more worryingly, ArSenal had not arranged any friendlies since their Sapphire Cup knockout to Tecos Foreign Legion; those in the know will recognize this as a reliable sign of deeper distress within a club.
Leuckert maintained his poker face as he maintained radio silence going into the game, and named an unchanged XI. Grilled were for their part without the suspended Islom Davlatov
, whose spot had been taken up by Moey Xin Seng
, with Chan Ze Han
filling the forward space that Moey in turn had vacated. Massoud Dob
had recovered, but only well enough to start on the bench.
Now as before, Grilled seized the pace despite the hosts being mindful of the need to defend. Florus Romijn
exemplified that attitude as he stubbornly attacked Cheung Wee Choon with repeated runs down the left touchline, and his bullishness got him through to unleash a scorcher in the fourth minute. That did appear to be going wide, but Myron Ooijer took no chances, and instead blocked it to Kalki Parvathaneni
for the second-chance finish.
Not the best of starts for the hosts, who did praiseworthily put that setback behind them. Led by Andrey Bozhkov, they managed to stabilize the game somewhat, which brought Isaac Altefähre in where it hurt most. It would be Ooijer who brought their equaliser in the 28th, though, as the big Dutchman wove past Moey and Hoàng with a grace completely unbefitting his size to score.
Thus reset, the match turned uglier, and all the more after referee Valentin Tudose awarded Grilled a soft penalty, that Cyril Künzler
converted. Charles Lao expressed his dissatisfaction with a vicious studs-up lunge at Chan Ze Han
as the latter dashed by, which however was self-defeating given that Chan stayed up long enough to make it 3-1 anyway. He did have to signal for treatment after that, as Moey hurried over to confront Lao.
The shouting match would somehow be defused by the combined efforts of the match officials and both sets of coaching staff, and Tudose felt it probably wise to have the players cool down with an early break. That didn't lower the intensity much if at all, and ArSenal worked themselves back into contention with some incredible personal skill from Étienne Höckelsberger in the 50th minute. Yuta Nakakita
was completely fooled, leaving Jonne Matero an easy one-on-one against Dan Seng
Matters then came to a head with ArSenal actually looking good for a draw, when Dan Seng
scampered away with the ball under heavy pressure from the strikers. Despite Seng having the ball under control clutched to his chest, Lao didn't hesitate to throw himself at it, bringing both crashing to the ground. Lao's clutching of his side didn't earn any sympathy from Tudose, who promptly gave him his second yellow card. Dan Seng
for his part had to limp off, making it the second goalie that Grilled had lost against ArSenal in as many meetings.
Few could fault Massoud Dob
for looking a little uncertain as he took up his post, but he wouldn't be called into action for a time as Grilled sprung forward. They responded to Lao's provocation immediately with Parvathaneni's drive off a corner kick knockdown, and Vikram Mudaliar
increased the lead further to 5-2 in the 69th minute, after Mihail Cioceanu lost Künzler on the turn.
There was a real back-and-forth going on, with the hosts having abandoned any pretense at playing it safe. They were indeed rather more convincing with the ball than without it, and the probably underappreciated Melanio Uon-Aso got their third goal thanks to some excellent initiative. Vitus Torzsa had pushed up but was wanting for targets, and Uon-Aso offered himself up as a prime one. Dob was obviously not on his game yet, from how he fluffed that save.
While a definite morale-booster for ArSenal, that goal didn't mean too much in the bigger picture, with Kalki Parvathaneni
completing his hat-trick barely a minute later, as Vikram Mudaliar
's yellow came with a silver lining. Tian Yonghang
's cameo for Chan Ze Han
then occured right before Yuta Nakakita
's strike, and ArSenal's effort to keep up on the following corner didn't materialize.