Grilled Get Real
The Birds had the best warm-up they could have wanted against Orchard side Real Balmoral, and would come away 5-0 winners in their first-ever meeting. Chan Ze Han
continued his magnificent season thus far, finishing with a brace that sees him level with Kalki Parvathaneni
and Tan Tong Leong atop the top scorers' table; Vikram Mudaliar
wasn't far behind, with his two in the last ten minutes.
Kalki was also just returned to the strikeforce after his suspension, with Bernie Egan
starting alongside Islom Davlatov
and Neeraj Muthyala
in a lesser-seen midfield configuration. The visitors for their part were set up in a compact 3-5-2, and it didn't take long to suspect that they were out to destroy more than create.
The home fans couldn't believe how Spanish defender Óscar Buj got away with elbowing Vikram Mudaliar
in the cheek mid-run in the fifth minute, but referee Miloš Počuča kept his cards in his pocket, and the free-kick had Cyril Künzler
swing it marginally over, after two decoys. Real Balmoral were not entirely without invention of their own, and a neat ball out for Fabian Harnisch forced Yuta Nakakita
into a pre-emptive shirt tug. History repeated with Yuta escaping a booking, and Zoltán Koller firing the free-kick into the doughty Grilled wall.
It was gearing up to be a difficult game with Real Balmoral taking their press very seriously, but things got more relaxed for Grilled, once Künzler reminded Fausto Lasagni why it might not be a good idea to stick too closely. There was no recourse for the Italian once Künzler caught him in a vulnerable moment mid-dribble, and Chan Ze Han
likewise wriggled free of his marker to belt the whipped cross home.
Real Balmoral were now in the unenviable position of having to chase the game, with Australian playmaker Hoss Tuckey their main outlet, but they were seldom able to summon an adequate fluency to really bother Grilled. Instead, they would fall prey to Florus Romijn
's directness down the left. Having thrown off Michel Battaglia, Romijn yet had Billy Gustavsson standing in his way. However, Gustavsson wound up not even slowing the Belgin winger down, as Romijn went almost straight through him before making it 2-0.
The visitors were in big trouble now, and there appeared chaos in the ranks when an ever-alert Chan Ze Han
upped the score to three on their first attack after the restart, despite Gianpaolo Pezzoni getting a touch on his shot. At the other end, Swedish striker Manne Dehlfeldt would face Massoud Dob
down after some suicidal defending, but Dob threw his hands out excellently to preserve his clean sheet.
The second half saw a double substitution from Grilled, probably in preparation for the cup semifinals on Wednesday - Egan and Muthyala were off, to be replaced by Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Moey Xin Seng
in midfield. They were clearly under orders not to overexert themselves, and from the numerous square and backpasses they dealt out, it was advice that they were all too willing to take.
That didn't stop Islom Davlatov
from being set up for a volley in the 70th minute, but nothing came of that chance. Instead, it was Óscar Buj who ended up doubly-embarassed in the finale, as Vikram Mudaliar
exploited his lack of pace not once but twice. The first instance came with ten minutes to go, from a standstill at the edge of the penalty area. The angle wasn't the best, but Mudaliar managed to find the far bottom corner.
Real Balmoral made their move for at least a consolation goal, but their best opportunity came and went with Fabian Harnisch, who was foiled trying to dribble around Massoud Dob
. Harnish did well to retrieve the loose ball, but Dob had repositioned himself for the second save. Worse, this resulted in a straight thirty-yard race between Mudaliar and Buj, and there was only ever going to be one winner; Gianpaolo Pezzoni had wisely decided not to join in, but was beaten from close range nevertheless.
It was all the visitors could do to try and retain whatever pride they could now, and they did at least keep Grilled from ruining their goal difference further. Davlatov's would-be assist in the 84th minute was cleared all but off Chan's forehead thanks to a Herculean leap from Petre Canache, and Moey Xin Seng
bid for a first goal in four appearances was stymied by the woodwork in injury time.