Much To Relearn
Riven By Rivadeneira
Grilled's pre-season confidence all but evaporated, as they were humbled 1-5 by KingofNoobs United in Sentosa. Defence was the difference between the teams, with the Birds' leaving very much to be desired. It was a lesser miracle that they had managed to hang with the hosts in terms of possession, given the sheer clockwork efficiency of their Xerardo Rivadeneira-led midfield, though KingofNoobs could probably have managed with far less.
passed a late fitness test to start, but he might have preferred to stay in bed, given how the day turned out. Neeraj Muthyala
would again start on the bench, with Chu Xin Lee
being the flavour of the month for Grilled. As for KingofNoobs, they opted to bring the game to the Birds, as they sported an extra man in Zhang Yong Huat up front for a 2-5-3, mirroring Grilled's formation. Elsewise, this could have been billed as a clash of youth versus experience, with Grilled's lineup aged about 27, compared to the mid-thirties of the home side.
Experience would take it, and it wasn't even close.
More optimistic Grilled fans had opined that it an even match, with their players' vigour making up for any glaring deficiencies, but this was severely discounting their being up against a side that had been in the S-League for five seasons, and finished in the top three for the most recent three; this was ability honed to a fine edge, evidenced all the more by how the KingofNoobs veterans operated in the rain. There would be no cute tricks, no sneaky strategems - just solid, basic, soccer, dished out consistently, and revved up when it mattered.
The Birds thought they were the ones pulling the strings, as they knocked it about largely undisturbed for the first few minutes, likely not having realized that they were being gently pressed back all the while. The lesson, when it came, was swift. Cyril Künzler
would be left straggling as Archibald Auner made his move from out wide, as Ang Keng Jing looked about for support. Ang gave ball to feet to Auner, who helped it past Webb with a superb first touch, and threw Yuta Nakakita
off with a suddent stop before picking out the far corner of goal.
Ang's ferocious other side would be laid bare soon after the restart, as he received a yellow for scything Moey Xin Seng
over, which Moey to his credit didn't oversell. KingofNoobs would then be two up, following Florus Romijn
's fine solo drive that brought goalie Finn Coleman into the action for once. Zhang Yong Huat might not have exactly captured the imagination during his time with the senior squad, but he had retained his excellent footballing sense, and was exactly where he needed to be, once former Slovakian international striker Baltazár Pivovarský had hassled Webb into a tight spot.
Grilled would recover in due course, and enjoy a fairly good stretch in the middle of the half, where Moey and Chan instilled some self-belief back into their comrades. Chan Ze Han
would engage Kuwaiti defender Hafith Abdulbary Al-Shanfary fully about the 25th minute, and although Hafith poked the ball away after a brief battle of wits, Chu Xin Lee
was alert to it, and attacked Coleman's right post with a perfectly-swerving strike for 1-2.
Coleman would have to be at his best to prevent Kalki Parvathaneni
's prospective equalizer some seven minutes later, as the pacy left forward gobbled up ground on a minor breakaway. At the other end, Massoud Dob
did his job against Japanese star Seiya Akune, who was starting only his second match for KingofNoobs United, following his S$7 million transfer from boyhood club Uinskas. Seiya might have lost some of his indomitable pressure in the twilight of his career, but Yuta discovered, he remained a very tough customer with his back facing goal.
If Grilled came out for the second half with renewed commitment, however, they would be quickly deflated. After the experience of the first half, their flanks had become effectively abandoned with the wingers drawn inside to help out, and Auner would have the run of the left sidelines in the 51st minute. He had gone all the way before Moey tentatively made to approach, but the low cross had been whipped across for Xerardo Rivadeneira's finish by then.
Matters only worsened for the Birds as their active pressing of the first half tooks its toll, and Zhang would up the score to 4-1 for KingofNoobs in the 63rd, as Russian right winger Stanislav Ermolovich outfoxed Romijn with an unorthodox reverse turn. Bilal Mohammad Harun
appeared to have been blocked off from challenging Zhang by Seiya there, but Spanish referee Pacífico Medina Martín saw nothing untowards, and the goal was allowed to stand.
There were still instances where Grilled looked decent, and with Moey Xin Seng
's competitive spirit riled up, there was always the hope of a reducer. Trouble was, KingofNoobs' midfielders remained a class above, and it was all Moey could do to slide a through pass for Cyril Künzler
to chase, after 72 minutes. That was a half-chance at best, and Künzler wouldn't be able to set himself, not with Marian Pawełczuk breathing down his neck; it would be an easy stop for Coleman.
It was then five for the hosts, as Ermolovich drilled a rocket past Massoud Dob
on the return from a free-kick setup, leading to more than a few heads dropping on the Birds side. Neeraj Muthyala
wasn't able to affect the game much, after replacing Chu Xin Lee
with ten minutes remaining, ditto Bernie Egan
in his three-minute stand-in for Bilal.