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This Sunday ended no differently from the twelve before it, as Grilled Birds came away with the league win without too much in the way of drama. Holland-based FC Tobi 74 were put precipitously on the edge with this 1-4 home setback, the same as when they had visited The Cooking Pot in the second week.
Remarkably, all the scorers were changed from that day, although for Bernie Egan
, he didn't even make Grilled's bench in this instance. This could hardly be interpreted as some snub given how the likes of Islom Davlatov
and Chu Xin Lee
didn't get to start either, in a reflection of the Birds' embarassment of riches in midfield and attack. Veteran centreback Yuta Nakakita
would however begin a game for the first time in a month, with Bhavya Panigrahi
With a cautious 4-3-3 having done them no good once before, FC Tobi 74 went for the 3-5-2 instead, as they left the conveniently off-form Ferenc Szathmári and Jeremy de Munnik out for more heft in the middle. Róbert Polacsik and Dimitar Yanchev were therefore included, as head coach Talal Al-Sahbani plotted a possession-based game.
That wouldn't work out for the hosts, who hadn't counted on Grilled's facility in that regard. The 23 year-old Chan Ze Han
perhaps reflected the club's ethos best, as he flitted between the lines freely, occupying the correct positions with no regard as to what static formations would dictate. Kalki and Mudaliar made for a terrifyingly potent supporting cast, who would tear into the defence given the slightest sign of weakness.
It was all a bit too much for Sebastian Ernst, whose takedown of Chan in the fifth minute was probably the best he could have hoped for. There would be no free-kick goal for Cyril Künzler
, unfortunately, with Pierre Manche anticipating his otherwise near-flawless delivery to the top corner. The honour of the first strike would go to Kalki Parvathaneni
instead, as he tidied up from Manche's improvised block from a Neeraj Muthyala
scorcher in the 22nd minute.
Tobi were not about to be walkovers before their own fans, and with survival very much on the line, they would assemble some bold incursions of their own. Grilled didn't cope well with directness, and Polacsik would dribble past two challenges to score in the 24th, aided by David Marcet cunningly occupying Gilbert Webb
. They might even have gone ahead before the break, but David Marcet looped a free-kick a yard too high.
Now, a draw would have secured the Birds' promotion with as much finality as a win, but all present recognized it as a result that would have been unsatisfying on all sides. Hovaness Noubaryan
had reserves to spare, and put Islom Davlatov
on for Muthyala; that was enough to tip the balance back Grilled's way, even if Cyril Künzler
would fire painfully into Christoph Nerée in Tobi's defensive wall, after Chan had sought another free-kick out for him.
No, the second breakthrough would come from another angle - a flank rampage. Fancying their chances, FC Tobi 74 had pressed too high, and a lucky long ball and bounce saw their worst fears realised, after Hjörtur Hafsteinsson stumbled and left Vikram Mudaliar
free to run. Only Sebastian Ernst was left to provide some cover, but Mudaliar simply squared it over for the no less speedy Florus Romijn
to sweep home.
Romijn correctly credited Mudaliar for the goal in his celebrations, but Grilled were hardly out of trouble yet. Tobi were smartly looking for fouls of their own, having observed referee Jaakko Arponen's tastes, and Polish forward Tadek Mruk didn't try very hard to stay on his feet, once Yuta Nakakita
came into contact with him, 62 minutes in. The free-kick was on David Marcet's favourite right side, and it took all of Massoud Dob
's considerable reach to prevent a second equalizer.
The incident also had Noubaryan ascertain that fresher legs were called for, and he sent Bhavya Panigrahi
on for Yuta at the first opportunity. Grilled's best option remained to pull away, of course, and they managed that in due time. Substitute Islom Davlatov
had crafted a devastatingly-effective give-and-go with Kalki then, and he took Pierre Manche out of the equation by drilling an unstoppable grounder in off the post.
Panigrahi didn't take long to be lured into a doubtful lunge on Marcet in the penalty area, and it appeared as if an exciting finish was on the cards. Marcet elected to take the spot kick himself, but placed it narrowly wide after Massoud Dob
had committed himself to diving left. Talal Al-Sahbani wasn't expecting that, from how he turned away with a grimace.
This match wouldn't have been complete without a goal from the best man on the day, and after creating more than a few excellent chances for others, Chan Ze Han
would finally take a shot on by himself. Incredibly, it was his first attempt of the day, and there would be no mistake - one shot, one goal.