Six It Is
The Chusen Ones
Grilled Birds secured their sixth-ever Division Two gong in front of a near-capacity home crowd, as they dismissed closest chasers -= Manchester United =- with a facility that bordered on the casual. The transfer rumours swirling around two of their top performers probably didn't do them any good, with S$16.9 million-rated Bulgarian goalkeeper Alben Minev known to be unsettled after a season-and-half. It was a similar story for Czech former national youth striker Jan Mrhálek, who had been their best player in this fixture, the last two times the teams met.
Both of them remained United players determined to be at their best against the Birds for the time being, and veteran skipper James Coombes would have them execute personal one-on-one matchups, all over the pitch. For Grilled, the biggest surprise was probably national forward Vikram Mudaliar
being benched, as the head coach decided on Kalki Parvathaneni
to join Chan Ze Han
and Moey Xin Seng
in the firing line. Florus Romijn
was restored to left wing, while Bilal Mohammad Harun
would once more fill in at defence.
There was a cagey start with usually-assured competitors hacking the ball out of bounds with impunity - a recouse that Bilal would regret resorting to, in the sixth minute. That gave the visitors their first corner, and it was delivered to Jahid Abdul Rahman's head perfectly by Yehonadav Ma'Atuk. Islom Davlatov
tried to challenge, but couldn't get high enough as Jahid elegantly dropped the ball into Massoud Dob
's far corner.
-= Manchester United =-'s opening strike sure quietened the raucous Birds support for a bit, but normal volume was quickly restored, as Grilled gave as good as they got. With the teams so finely matched in midfield, it would take something out of the ordinary to produce good chances, which so happened to be Chu Xin Lee
's domain. Especially inspired on the day, the 27 year-old hometown boy teased and turned with savoir-faire
, and found himself in a position to take a shot in the 20th minute, having overloaded the central defence with his sudden pull inside. His grounder was true, and Grilled were level.
Chu's teammates recognized that he was entirely in tune, and made it a point to involve him as much as they could, which paid off with a second goal from Chu barely seven minutes later. Moreover, opposing midfielder Arseni Bussé would receive a hard crack to his skull, having unwisely decided to go head-first for a low pass in the build-up. Referee Gilbert Engelberger - nor, it has to be said, most of the players - hadn't seen that accident, and Chu's goal would stand after a short debate. As for Bussé, he would complain of dizziness even after a long sit-down, and was replaced by defender Ulrich Langagergaard.
Despite losing a regular, United proved more than able when attacking, and Dob would have to be on his toes to turn Zoltán Veres' curler around the post in the 35th minute. United's corner would be their undoing on this occasion, however, as Gilbert Webb
cleared it tantalizingly for Kalki Parvathaneni
; the pacy Number 37 eluded first Vadim Brovchenko, and then a ranging Alben Minev himself, to slot into an unguarded net.
would then try to catch Minev out with a forty-yard effort, which wasn't well-received by some of the United bench. Nothing further came of that provocation, thankfully, but Hovaness Noubaryan
would withdraw Chu Xin Lee
for Bernie Egan
for the second half, to clear disappointment from the two-goal man himself, as evidenced by his facial expressions whilst ensconced in the club VIP box.
There was no doubting the different type of pizzaz that Egan brought with him, that said, and United were soon faced with another speedster willingly running at tiring legs. All this likely contributed to Grilled's penalty award in the 58th, which came as Florus Romijn
invited Reiner Fürhacker to try and stop him - which the latter did, if wrongly. Cyril Künzler
lined it up, and went straight down the middle, with Minev having flung himself to the left.
Noubaryan couldn't resist urging his players to go on the defensive for the remaining half-hour, over the chants of the home faithful. This unavoidably handed initiative over to United, who would advance mostly through James Coombes down the right. This birthed a couple of notable chances, with Yehonadav Ma'Atuk first skewing a lob narrowly wide. 73 minutes in, Jahid Abdul Rahman impressively boomed one drom deep, only for it to be nicked aside by Massoud Dob
at the last instant.
It would instead be Grilled who would widen their lead despite their defensive posture, with United not able to maintain their shape, as they chased the game fruitlessly. Florus Romijn
was a constant thorn down their right, which had already condemned Fürhacker, as seen from the previous penalty; Romijn was at it again in the 76th minute, and this time he found Moey Xin Seng
with a pinpoint short cross, which the Grilled captain cashed in for 5-1.
There was no question of victory after that, and Yuta Nakakita
wasn't about to hurry when coming on for Bilal with ten minutes remaining. United would make a second substitution themselves, if not by their own choice, after Sim Chin Chi went down clutching his right calf. That left 19 year-old Karim Mohd Syamsuddin - most often deployed as a custodian - to take over, surely not a good look!
United would somehow manage the last word, again from Jahid, following Gilbert Webb
's saved header, but that was mostly lost in The Cooking Pot's ongoing celebrations. Kalki Parvathaneni
definitely savoured the moment as he was clapped off in time added on, that led into a minor pitch invasion upon the final whistle being blown.