Last Minute Confusion
Carda Near Horror
The memory of the 1-8 caterwauling by UDNTK FC towards the end of last season remained seared into the Grilled players' memories, and there would very nearly be further residual bad taste to be had, as the Hollanders came extremely close to taking a probably-undeserved point off the Birds here, through Spanish nemesis Joan Carda. Grilled just about held on, fortunately.
UDNTK FC head coach Tan Hock Ping was predictably loathe to tweak the lineup that had absolutely destroyed Grilled, but several departures over the off-season would force some adaptations; foremost amongst these was Romanian midfielder Minel Furdui, who together with the also-gone Wilfred Baranczyk had owned the right side that day. Centreback Gerald Gajic had moved on to 1.FC Meidling too, which had Tan bank his hopes on Adikas Kantminas and André Celedón, to directly meet the Birds' greatest strength head-on.
This was a very honest gameplan, though successive defeats to Sarcastic Fringeheads and Ramseille Volliard FC honestly hadn't supported Tan's frequent experimentation towards formations. This 3-5-2 was arguably somewhat more passive than would have been ideal, and the visitors would learn early on that giving up this much initiative to the Birds could well be painful. Bilal Mohammad Harun
might have had a legit shout at a penalty from contact initiated by goalkeeper Martin Barbara in the sixth minute, but that became moot as the determined midfielder fought back to his feet, and nudged the ball in.
One doesn't see too much of that nowadays, and Bilal would rightly be praised by the commentators, for taking matters into his own hands. Going behind also seemed to remind UDNTK FC that they should perhaps not wait for the trouble to seek them out, but regaining the initiative was easier said than done. They got a big break on the aftermath when Vikram Mudaliar
's drive came back off the post in the 23rd minute, and some razor-close passes would see Joan Carda ghost past Gilbert Webb
, for his third goal against Grilled.
Webb wasn't about to just let that pass, and his response would come in kind, barely five minutes later. The Birds continued to be ascendant on the front foot, and the sustained pressure brought a fine shooting opportunity for the Scottish defender, which he duly powered to Barbara's top left corner. The visitors had yet to recover, when Moey Xin Seng
mercilessly upped the score to 3-1, as he all but bowled Celedón aside in getting to Wu Jinglong
UDNTK FC were getting run over at this stage, and they would badly need something to break Grilled's momentum - which came with Mariano Miguel's atrocious takedown of Kalle ter Berg
. The French winger made no attempt to mitigate his leap onto Kalle's back, and had the unfortunate Dutchman rolling about, clutching his spine. While Kalle would regain his feet soon enough, he would soon signal to be taken off, and Teo Chuan Yong
would be thrust into the fray.
That took a little of the edge off Grilled's play, which was enough for UDNTK FC to make it to half-time without conceding further. They didn't seem to have resolved their issues during the interval, however, and would fall further behind to Vikram Mudaliar
's effort in the 52nd. Wu then came within inches of a fifth another ten minutes later, and when Miguel got sent off for a second yellow, their goose looked well and truly cooked.
For some reason, going down to ten men jolted UDNTK FC into effectiveness instead, and after Bilal's close shave in the 72nd minute, they would frankly look the better team. Much of this might be down to the Birds starting to slack off through complacency, as when Salah Kamel
let Carda go, without checking that his defenders had recovered. Jānis Salmiņš
would answer his detractors on this occasion, as he was well alert to the danger.
This appeared to be it for the day, as Grilled saw the match out to the 89th minute, with nary a further incident... or so it felt. Eren Serpin
would spend his remaining two substitutions on bringing Chu Xin Lee
and José Luiz Velho
into the game, just in time for UDNTK FC to earn a corner from a concerted push down the left. Carda would lift it to Benjamin Godlieb at the near post, who got enough of a knock-on for Viktors Olainieks to smash it home off the other post.
Grilled nevertheless retained a two-goal lead, which was then reduced to one in short order, as UDNTK FC threw caution to the wind, having little to lose. Joan Carda's instincts were golden as he timed his run to perfection as Burghgraaff released, and the Birds were suddenly faced with the unthinkable. Olainieks actually came inches to equalizing in the final seconds, and it was only thanks to Gilbert Webb
's bloody-mindedness that Grilled survived with full points.