Bilal Sends Bill
Grilled Birds got back to winning ways - their four hundredth league win, in particular - against Orchard-based club Talpons, who were playing just their third ever match in Division Two. An offshoot of Italy's Borussia SS, Talpons had become known for the fanatic atmosphere in their undersized Hanna Stadium, which was once more packed to the rafters today.
Those supporters were certainly raving to witness victory on home ground, after Aron Zetterander had led them to an incredible 4-3 away from home against Robbie Football Club last week, and the Swede striker was certainly all business as he took up position facing Gilbert Webb
. The Birds for their part made the odd move of fielding Chan Ze Han
at left wing, and not Florus Romijn
, but the brief was easy enough to infer - keep the ball in Talpons' territory.
It was a simple plan, but well-executed, as Grilled forced their opponents back in midfield. Talpons were playing a fairly flat 3-5-2, and were vulnerable to direct running from deep. Moey Xin Seng
would nod their first real chance wide from Cyril Künzler
's diagonal free-kick dropped in, but there wasn't too much moping, as Chu Xin Lee
struck following a short goal-kick.
That happened in the eleventh minute, and the next twenty or so also belonged to the Birds. It was not without protest from Talpons, certainly, and Künzler would be booked for shoving Talpons skipper Polat Faris over, in his bid to get to Vincent Pihan's block off Kalki Parvathaneni
. That only upped the intensity another notch, and Massoud Dob
would stay on the ground after being accidentally hit in the calf by Zetterander, while at full stretch.
Dob would come off after some attention from the medic, and Krystian Rykowski
lasted barely four minutes before being scored on. There had been an extended Grilled possession nearly conclude successfully by Yuta Nakakita
's hammershot, but that also meant that he wasn't there to help out as Pihan restarted instantly, with some help from the ballboy. Grilled's few men back tracked who they could, but not Magnus Anklam, who made his way in from the right flank to sidefoot the ball past Rykowski.
The Birds would answer thanks to a defensive mistake from Rico Rouwhorst, who left Chan Ze Han
totally free to square an easy one for Künzler. Still, the home side had been emboldened, and their Jordanian midfielder Usman Sharaf was onto something special, weaving past three Grilled players before Yuta Nakakita
managed to insert himself between Sharaf and the ball. Sharaf refused to give up, but his all-too-flagrant shirt-pulling would be punished with a yellow card by the referee.
The nearly wholly partisan crowd shook the stands for Talpons as the teams returned for the second half, but if this was an effort to intimidate Grilled, it probably didn't work. Two minutes in, Vikram Mudaliar
had been forced wide right by Sharaf after receiving the ball with his back to goal, but Mudaliar would find Bilal Mohammad Harun
filling the space in his stead. A tricky backheel later, Bilal just about nicked it over Vincent Pihan for 1-3.
Grilled's Number Six was just getting started, and the few travelling diehards recognized the free-scoring Bilal fresh from his arrival. Long accustomed to sitting in a holding position and doing the dirty work, Bilal was instead making numerous forward runs, with Moey and Muthyala wise enough to let him do his thing. Sure enough, there would be another Bilal goal some ten minutes later, as he put his good foot through a lofted cutback from Künzler.
would try to get in on the scoring as Talpons wavered, but his finish came off the post. The hosts were in dire straits nevertheless, as their great hope Aron Zetterander was just not producing, though more due to himself than any exceptional defending from Webb. They remained good for the occasional attack, though, and the hardworking Sharaf made no mistake once played in by Ignazio Salvalai in the 70th minute.
Their faint chances at a draw were all but extinguished by Neeraj Muthyala
's drop header right afterwards, but it just wasn't Mudaliar's day, as his magical lob clipped the crossbar next. There wasn't much left to be done for the Birds, and Yuki Irie
would come on to steady the ship towards the end.