Vikram's The Man
Moey vs. Sigi
Grilled Birds collected their first competitive victory against -= Manchester United =- in fourteen seasons, and it took tremendous drive from former national youth forward Vikram Mudaliar
. United had, of course, been one of Grilled's trademark opponents in their last stint in II.2, and moreover one of the most successful against them - six wins and a draw in eight meetings.
It would be a whole new generation taking to The Cooking Pot today, however, and with the clubs having just joined forces in the Singapore Community Cup, much of the former edge had been taken off this fixture. Not only that, United had not been doing well, and remained without a win after five rounds, though their four draws indicated a team that German head coach Stephan Ströming had designed to be very hard to beat outright.
United had shored up their attack with the debut of Russian striker Nurlan Ablaev, arriving from top St. Petersburg club Tigr for S$12.7 million. His tally with them had come to 79 goals, often as a wide attacker, but it was evident that Ströming was looking to him as his main goal-getter, with the surprise selection of trainee Jahid Abdul Rahman in a supporting role. Then again, this might well be justified with United having not scored in their last three league games, which has led to Manuel Nastasi being dropped entirely, despite his otherwise stellar output.
The Birds weren't about to allow United to impose their will as visitors, and a turbocharged run by Kalki Parvathaneni
would be parlayed into a free-kick, which Cyril Künzler
curved just wide. Ablaev wasn't waiting to reveal his brillance either, as he sent Gilbert Webb
sprawling with a decisive fake glance. Yuta Nakakita
was prepared, though, and it would turn out to be the high point of the newcomer's day.
United's passivity hadn't yet been corrected, to their obvious detriment, and chances began to flow Grilled's way. Moey Xin Seng
gave Luis Monteiro something to think about with his improvised shot in the 18th, and Bilal Mohammad Harun
's wild swipe a few minutes later would be bravely absorbed by Jahid's diving header. There were anxious moments as the youngster then collapsed motionless to the turf, but he thankfully regained consciousness after brief attention. There was no way he would be allowed to continue after that, and Chau Chao Yeow entered in his place.
That didn't much help United's chances, what with Chau nursing his own ankle tweak, and Monteiro was very fortunate not to give away a penalty when he swept Chu Xin Lee
off his feet in the 26th. He admittedly got the ball too, though, and it would be United's turn to feel cheated by the refereeing when Moey Xin Seng
viciously went studs-up into Sigi Tevreden. Gerrie van Yperen hesitated before settling for the yellow, triggering bad blood between the duo that would last the remainder of the game.
The drama wasn't stopping as English winger Sid Ottoade was next to go down, this after having lost out to Florus Romijn
on the wing. The home fans chose to interpret this as a sneaky attempt to stop the match in a disadvantageous position, which United had indeed been wont to do. Next, it was Tevreden's turn with his extremely obviously planned contact against Moey's leg, which won him a booking and a heated dispute with the Grilled captain.
All those distractions aside, -= Manchester United =- had actually been doing quite well, in that they were stabilizing the match and protecting Monteiro's net. True, they still had great difficulty getting the ball anywhere near Massoud Dob
, but that could theoretically be solved later on.
That made for nearly half an hour of fruitless if not entirely unwatchable action, which would only come to an end with Vikram Mudaliar
's breaking of United's offside trap in the 61st minute. Künzler's forty-yard pass was weighted exactly for him, and Mudaliar appeared to have scored... only for his thunderbolt to come off the underside of the bar, and onto the goalline. He claimed it instantly anyway, but replays confirmed that it hadn't gone in.
United were certainly buckling under Grilled's sustained assault, and it really was looking like a matter of time now. Sim Chin Chi had definitively lost the midfield - which might be expected given his tender years - and it was all centreback Harald Mekker could do, to clean up behind him. Bilal was at it again, pulling off a neat first-time half-volley off Neeraj Muthyala
's sudden layoff, but the woodwork was in the way once more.
Grilled were getting anxious now, and a rash Florus Romijn
tackle played right into United's hands, allowing them to regroup. Good news turned bad for them after that, as Vikram Mudaliar
started dribbling from the centre circle. Somehow, he managed to get to the penalty area unmolested, feinting passes when he needed to, and by then only Mekker remained. The German skipper was light on his feet, but Mudaliar somehow crossed the ball through his legs while in full flight, before sticking it firmly into the far end of goal.
It was a move worthy of winning any game, not the least this one, and United appeared well out of ideas. With little left to lose, they tried advancing en masse, but that wasn't entirely effective given how it went against the grain of their philosophy. The response left Chu Xin Lee
facing Luis Monteiro down, but the goalie kept United in it with a beauty of a save.
The Birds might yet have regretted not finishing United off, as Ulises Can made a break for it, but such worries were fully assuaged with three minutes remaining. Moey slid it through the barest of gaps for another of Mudaliar's incisive runs, and Monteiro would come out second this time in the one-on-one.