Two Men Down
-= Manchester United =-'s scare factor for the Birds had gone down in recent seasons, or so it seemed, as Grilled recorded a third successive win in a fixture that they had once approached in trepidation. Newly-appointed Swiss head coach Arnault Collonge would prioritize results, from how he brought proven veterans such as Sebastian Hergolitsch, Vladimír Vyklický and Yehonadav Ma'Atuk in; reality would however not be as cooperative as the market, though, as United were harried into submission on their own ground.
The hosts were not wanting for courage initially as they met Grilled's 2-5-3 head-on with a mirror formation, and early signs pointed to a close, if exciting, affair. Former Czech youth forward Jan Mrhálek had been exceptional in his previous start against the Birds, and if United were to score, he would have been the obvious suspect. Frankly, he should have after Sim Chin Chi curved a delightful through ball around Yuta Nakakita
to set him free in the ninth minute, but Massoud Dob
made himself big right as Mrhálek tried to chip at the last instant.
United wouldn't be able to string many passes together, however, which might have been an artifact of the recent turnover in personnel. Grilled had much fewer problems on that end, and Bilal Mohammad Harun
's combativeness in particular had them slowly come out on top. Bilal would try a disguised pass to Vikram Mudaliar
in the 25th, and while Sebastian Hergolitsch saw it and cut it out, the bounce delivered it to Chan Ze Han
- who smashed it hard and low into goal in Mudaliar's stead.
Chan would again be at it five minutes later, after Florus Romijn
's industry had drawn a rather optimistic overhead effort from Bernie Egan
, whose taste for the spectacular has really shone forth in recent games. In contrast, there wasn't much fancy about Chan simply shoving past Vadim Brovchenko after the Russian defender had his eye off the ball, and the 2-0 finish was likewise simple and effective. Brovchenko apparently thought his best move was to stay down and hope for a foul to be called, but referee Paweł Wiśniewski wasn't buying it, to the home crowd's loud disapproval.
Wiśniewski's popularity at Old Trafford wouldn't improve, as he shortly afterwards pulled a yellow card on 19 year-old Jahid Abdul Rahman for interfering with Cyril Künzler
's free-kick. Some balance would be restored in that respect, after he also booked Kalki Parvathaneni
, for roughly bundling Hergolitsch over in his haste to get to the ball.
The first half indubitably had Grilled calling the shots, and if the home supporters expected their team would do something about it, those wishes were dashed barely three minutes into the second half. Kalki would again tear it up down the left with Romijn in support, and this time there was no stopping him, after one last unconvincing tackle from Sid Ottoade. The grounder nearly didn't cross the line after pinging off the far post, but video replays would eventually confirm the goal.
If Alben Minev hadn't been very useful in goal before this, he would get to prove his value against a Künzler free-kick soon - and a magnificent strike it was too, headed straight for the far top corner. It was surely more than most any goalkeeper could be expected to stop, but Minev was an exception there.
The home fans would remain glum as United struggled to gain any foothold, but they did have a brief moment to themselves in the 74th minute, as Sid Ottoade turned Romijn inside-out, before unleashing a wonderful pass to Jahid Abdul Rahman, whom nobody had noticed steaming into the box. There was plenty of the goal to aim at, but Jahid ultimately hit it straight at Dob, to Collonge's evident frustration on the sidelines.
That turned out their best chance for a consolation, as the rest of the game would feature some close-run opportunities for the visitors, most notably by Bilal and Romijn. It wasn't their day in the end, with Islom Davlatov
instead making it four in the last minute of regular time, right after Kalki had gone off for Prokop Mottl