Valjean Doubly Arrested
The Birds sprung a thrilling reprisal against Abu Dhabi III.11 leaders Jean Valjean United, who are well on their way to an eighth Division Three title. The Swiss owners were definitely wary of stagnation, having petitioned the administrators for a move from III.9, despite having topped that league last season. This intensity bled through to the match, which surely far surpassed the usual standards of a friendly.
The hosts took to the field in their home kit of all dark blue, encouraged by an attendance of some 7500 hardy souls; the dry heat lingered despite the pains taken to hold the fixture in the late evening, and while Grilled were not entirely unused to high temperatures, they further had a very competent midfield consisting of Francho Grustán, Zdzisław Rychlica and Stephen Friis to contend with. Indeed, Valjean's Portuguese head coach Álvaro Ricardo Quezado had always emphasized depth in that position, and Grilled's only let-off would be the absence of starting strikers Christoph Radtke and Dawoud Al-Habtour, the latter only recently a member of the Emirati youth national squad.
Valjean wouldn't get forward much initially, and the first twenty minutes or so belonged to the visiting Birds; Veteran defender Jérémy Tarin
had a tremendous free-kick batted aside by Jesús Cuerla after just four minutes, and the S$8.2 million Mexican goalkeeper would be kept busy by Grilled's numerous approaches. Islom Davlatov
had perhaps the pick of those as he wove to the outside against Kim Nystedt in the 21st minute, but Vikram Mudaliar
was just a shade slow to the urgent low cross then.
It would be the hosts who found the net first against the run of play, with nobody keeping an eye on Stephen Friis as he crept up the middle in the 27th. Guam teenager Chatpangon Nilooban then very narrowly escaped a sending-off for blithely chopping Moey Xin Seng
down after a first clumsy tackle, though Grilled couldn't capitalize with Cuerla on fire. Forty minutes in, Valjean would double their lead, as Ole Jacob Austbø and Almas Kalelov changed it up slickly, carving out an easy close-up header for the former.
Grilled however restored the scoreline to something fairer right from the restart, as their own midfield combined cleverly to send José Luiz Velho
through. The Brazilian would score, but the replays were all about Chan Ze Han
's outrageous no-look assist. Velho's dues would arrive some seven minutes after the restart, as he equalized from a classy first-time lob, after having drifted wide left.
's arrival for Davlatov undeniably jazzed the Birds' offence up, but for a long while there it seemed as though the game would be decided by Cuerla, who survived a one-on-one duel with Moey in the 57th minute. Eren Serpin
in contrast hardly covered himself in glory, and he would let a comparatively soft shot by Johannes Bäckvall get past him, shortly afterwards.
The Birds weren't fazed, having been in this position already, and resumed their building from behind. It didn't take long at all for Prokop Mottl
to make it all square at 3-3, what with Chan stepping through the gears. Velho would contribute too as he divided Walo Kremer's attentions, allowing Mottl some extra free yards as he steamed down the centre.
replaced Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
in defence, and then Grilled were finally ahead, for the first time on the night. Jérémy Tarin
managed from open play what he couldn't from set pieces, as he collected himself on the decisive ball in by Kalki Parvathaneni
. Leonard Nguyen
then popped in for the final ten minutes for Mottl, as the Birds kept ahead.