Harpooned By AHAB
Grilled lost their first friendly game of the season, to El Salvadorean III.13 winners AHAB FC. They might have bounced between the second and third divisions for much of recent history, but they were assuredly no pushover, especially on home ground. A very respectable headcount of nearly seven thousand had been drawn to Le Pequod, which would showcase some of the best that the teams had to offer.
AHAB got off to a swell start, with the Birds finding themselves caught out on an overconfident thrust down the left. Eugeniusz Stachlewski retrieved the ball from Serbian fullback Matija Jelkić's superbly-executed tackle, and carried it fifty yards before centering it for Jules Valour to convert, with only eighty seconds on the clock.
The Birds didn't look their usual self today, and had to endure an uncertain vibe, which wasn't missed by the home team. Kalki Parvathaneni
came up with a decent low effort in the eleventh minute, which would be cleared to a corner; rather, it would be AHAB who would go two up, as Turkish playmaker Berke Can Artam darted to the undermanned right flank, as Yuta Nakakita
tried to cover too much ground.
Grilled's fightback began after that, first with Neeraj Muthyala
demonstrating his bite with a tough sliding challenge on Artam - the yellow card seemed harsh, given that Muthyala likely got the ball first. National forward Vikram Mudaliar
then came into his own, picking out the corner in the 22nd minute, before showing his range with a flying header in the 27th minute, to draw his team level.
That second goal would however also mean tragedy for Islom Davlatov
, who had gotten himself crushed under a pile of bodies, as Mudaliar and a couple of defenders came crashing down. The others would recover after some treatment, but it was evident that Davlatov had gotten the worst of it, as he remained unable to pick himself up. The stretcher had to come on, and Moey Xin Seng
would continue in his stead.
The match took on a more sombre tone with that, and it took some minutes before it recovered its original intensity. Richi Stickel would impressively manage to find the net in the 39th minute, despite being all but manhandled by Gilbert Webb
, and Grilled's rushing the goal on their next free-kick attempt would be well-defended by AHAB.
There would be a long lull before the sides kicked back into gear for the second half too, though there was always some bit of entertainment for the fans to hang onto. Jelkić was an unlikely shooter in the 69th minute, after extended AHAB pressure brought no clear opening, and it took some acrobatics from Massoud Dob
for Grilled to stay level. The Birds weren't shy either, and Yuta Nakakita
would prove himself an excellent corner kick target in the 74th minute, as he met Künzler's delivery with a bullet header straight into the back of the net.
Grilled were having it good at this stage of the game, but Künzler's free-kick would unfortunately ping off the post a few minutes later, leaving them on three goals. Hoàng Trung Quá
's entry was meant to introduce some freshness, but the 38 year-old's loss of pace soon told, as Alfred San Gil Ollo sprinted by to put AHAB ahead for a third time. Valour might well have put it to bed there and then, but for some last-second hesitation.
The rollercoaster ride was hardly over yet, as Florus Romijn
made up for his mistake leading to AHAB's opener, by taking on the fading Jelkić and scoring. The draw seemed set in stone now, but referee Ziv Nissan would for some reason view Webb's close tussling with Valour in the final moments as a foul, and gave AHAB a penalty. Berke Can Artam duly sent Dob the wrong way, in a highly-controversial conclusion to the day.