Iron Lions Tension
Velho In Added Time
Iraqi II.2 hosts Iron Lions of Al Iraq, under the same management umbrella as Germany's Torpedo Eisen and H.I. side Dengbej Dalkurd FF, kept things interesting until the very end against Grilled Birds. An Al-Dawry Al-Momtaz member just two seasons back, and a proud former winner of the Al Iraq Ruby Challenger Cup, the Lions retained much of the pride that had gotten them thus far. Their ageing veteran midfield core was more than capable against the Birds' own crop, and it was only at the very end, that their legs began to give.
Iron Lions were not without their own youth either, and this friendly would see the debut senior appearance of 17 year-old Ahmad Abdul, with the playmaker having just reached the age of professional eligibility. Lining up directly opposite a Moey Xin Seng
in his prime was probably not the easiest introduction for Abdul, but he would stick to his man with a laudable tenacity.
Grilled were as before a little lightweight other than in midfield, and Iron Lions were canny enough to zero in on those shortcomings. Danish winger Svend Vind thrived against Kalki Parvathaneni
, never a natural defender, on the left, and Kohei Okuya
was not much more of an obstacle, as Vind whipped in the cross. Centreback Bedirxan Hêran was there to make up the numbers, and crashed a power header beyond Eren Serpin
Now ahead, the home team put additional emphasis on shutting the Birds down, and had their fair share of success in cutting out Grilled's passing patterns. This adversely affected their ability to keep the ball too, however, and they wouldn't get into Grilled's penalty area again, until a counterattack off a cleared corner that saw Herêm Hamadamen away past the last man. The 18 year-old forward was a picture of concentration as he bore down on Serpin, and only overcooked his lifted shot by an inch or two.
The Birds would finally catch Iron Lions unawares about the half-hour mark, as a swarming attack directly into the heart of the opposition defence paid off. Chan Ze Han
would be suspiciously knocked down mid-dribble as he edged past Sandro Kocijančić, but referee David Rivas was spared having to make a call, as Moey Xin Seng
immediately blasted the now-loose ball inside player-coach Sydney Christenson's far post. The very next possession saw Islom Davlatov
add another goal on a similar run, and 2-1 would be how the half concluded.
would come on for Davlatov for the second period, as did Yuki Irie
- surely now easing into his retirement - for Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
in defence. The 41 year-old Yuki would show the value of experience against Hamadamen, that said, if oft with the insurance of calling upon Moey. Iron Lions kept their pressing up, and while Vikram Mudaliar
troubled Christenson somewhat with a fine curler in the 57th minute, Grilled were otherwise unable to create any obvious chances.
It was the hosts who instead made their play for victory with about twenty minutes left. The Birds were starting to get careless, what with Iron Lions not having staged a serious attempt to advance for many minutes, and they were in a shambles as one-club man Haider Shanshal picked his way deep into Birds territory. Hungarian teammate Atilla Érsek signalled for it, and thrashed it beautifully on the volley into the net to equalize.
Iron Lions' comeback seemed complete after Juan Gallifa nodded home from Vind's free-kick delivery, which was the last component of a well-worked sequence beginning with another cleverly-defended corner, and then Hamadamen's drawing of a foul and card against Jérémy Tarin
. The Swiss fullback would pay them back quickly enough, though, with another nudge on Chan Ze Han
inside the box awarded by Rivas on this occasion; Tarin would wait for Christenson to commit, before rolling it in effortlessly.
Extra time loomed, and the hosts made a couple of substitutions in anticipation, introducing Khatib Sultan and Shaker Aziz in an effort to freshen things up. It wouldn't get that far, though, as Vikram Mudaliar
raced through to set Velho up for the winner, seconds after regulation time had ended. Jérémy Tarin
then had the opportunity to rub it in as the hosts threw nearly everybody up to try and save the match, but skewed his finish slightly.