Knockout At Suzaku
Dinged From The Wing
Grilled Birds hauled themselves back into the safe zone with another commanding victory over Shoryuken FC, who did put up a marginally better fight at their Woodlands home of Suzaku Castle Arena. The Birds were freed to operate as it suited them, or so head coach Hovaness Noubaryan
hinted before the game, and they repaid him with a very sound result. Wingers Cyril Künzler
and Heng Dong Chu
were moreover involved in almost every goal, as they applied themselves liberally.
The hosts had managed to lure a sizeable attendance of near fifty-five thousand for this, despite their only positive result in the league, bar an 8-1 thrashing of in-administration ~Pollen~, being a one-nil home win against the Earthquakes on opening day. This could in part be due to the innate charisma of their homegrown duo of Theodore Zheng and Kolten Yuen, the latter of whom would face Grilled for the first time, after being dropped from the previous meeting.
Against this, however, had to be balanced Grilled Birds' own considerable resources, which were such that Noubaryan could bench Moey Xin Seng
and Vikram Mudaliar
without undue comment. Heng Dong Chu
had moreover recovered just in time to claim his seat back from Islom Davlatov
, who had succumbed to a foot injury in turn.
Shoryuken FC then, had no answer to Heng and Künzler attacking down the wings, with neither Anders Åsberg nor American vice-captain Elvin McCutchen quite up to the task of corralling their counterparts. Heng was the more dynamic in the early going, and he made to repay the club's faith, despite a spotty record thus far, with some tenacious harrassment down the left. This led to a bad touch from Åsberg about the 20th minute, which Heng immediately latched onto, and bent into the middle for a concise Kalki Parvathaneni
The home team's self-belief would slowly be eroded as the Birds began taking the game over in earnest, although they didn't exactly make it easy, with Scott Gaskarth tidying up all too often from midfield. They wouldn't be able to keep up on the defensive forever, though, and Chu Xin Lee
whacked an unstoppable riser past Pierre Beffers, only for it to ricochet violently off the crossbar... right to Neeraj Muthyala
, who kept his wits about him to pick out a chip to where the grounded goalkeeper couldn't get to.
Shoryuken FC's concentration broke at that, and Grilled would find themselves 4-0 up, by the 36th minute. The next strike came from Bilal Mohammad Harun
, after Heng had again twisted and turned his way into clearing space, courtesy of Gaskarth having to cover on his outside. Cyril Künzler
then got into the act with a cheeky free-kick taken quickly. Beffers might conceivably have scrambled to save had he tried, but he elected to take it up with referee Jerry Cantrell instead; unfortunately for him, Cantrell saw nothing wrong with that.
It was getting really dicey for the hosts, but they arrested their fall with some penetrating insight of their own. Ferry Zwaan hadn't lost his gift for picking out a pass despite all that had been thrown at him, and he drove it long for Anders Åsberg, who wasn't about to be under Heng Dong Chu
's thumb all day. Grilled kept their marking on the forwards in the madcap rush back, but this was just what Italian playmaker Giorgio Mencherini was expecting, and he would supply the accurate finish after Åsberg pulled it back to him.
This made it 4-1, and it stayed that way well into the second half, with Alan Pe'er expectedly replacing 38 year-old skipper Julian Schenke right before the hour. Schenke was honestly nowhere near his prime, but Shoryuken FC were somewhat short on reinforcements, though it remained quite unexpected that they put Teoh Jin Han on instead of Calvin van de Braak. Whatever the reason, it didn't do much for Shoryuken FC's overall disposition, and Heng Dong Chu
drifted into the middle in the 63rd minute to record only his second goal for Grilled.
Teoh had his highs, that said, and his superficial selfishness would see him through to a one-on-one against Massoud Dob
with fifteen minutes remaining, after none of the defenders really believed that he wasn't going to pass the ball. He fired it straight into Dob, however, and while Theodore Zheng did slide it into the net, he achieved it only by clattering the goalkeeper hard. The referee thus booked Zheng and nullified the goal, to the crowd's loud disapproval.
The match had probably gone on for longer than it needed to, which was reflected in the increasing volume of petty fouls. Grilled were far from innocent, and right after Moey Xin Seng
had entered for Bernie Egan
, Neeraj Muthyala
was fortunate to avoid getting sent off for a pointless off-the-ground tackle on Yuen. This admittedly went both ways, but Zwaan should probably have just let Kalki rush past him in the 81st minute, with Beffers' having directed Webb's effort behind anyway. Instead, the Dutchman tried to sneak in a nudge, had it spotted, which led to a textbook penalty conversion from Cyril Künzler
That penalty itself caused a freak injury to Chu Xin Lee
, who seemed to have pulled his left hamstring in his haste to burst into the penalty area; he would have to be withdrawn for Vikram Mudaliar
. A final big burst of action occured in injury time, first with Theodore Zheng again scoring against the Birds on a one-man bombing run down the left, before Mudaliar unsuccessfully tested Beffers on a similar breakthrough.