Bilal Fells Wolves
Ted Has Talk
Dutch H.A.L VI.325 hosts Colorado Timberwolves put up a good show against the travelling Birds, who however powered through to a win on the back of their midfield brawn. A 39 year-old Bilal Mohammad Harun
was nowhere near his regal best from his prime, but even this reduced version was sufficient to put two past the Timberwolves, who did give Grilled a right scare at the end.
Having just come off a dramatic away scalp of their own, as they edged Valhall Titans after a missed early penalty, French head coach Manuele Minghetti had his team come out in a 5-3-2 that screamed of countering Grilled's attacks. Victor Trachsler, just two years younger than Bilal, would be their captain and cornerstone in central midfield, with forwards Romano Rebov and Rüştü Kara scarcely younger on aggregate.
The Birds had Gandhik Chitre
in midfield together with Chia Kwang Tse
and Hwang Teck Fu
, however, which was more than enough to intimidate Trachsler's opposing unit. Largely abandoning the flanks was also a dangerous ploy from the hosts, which bit them hard in the 14th minute as Enrique Baena
scooted deep down their right wing before facing any obstacle at all. Baena wouldn't be shy about heaving it at Emanuel Toorn, and wound up pulling it across goal for Bilal to meet at the far post, as the wily veteran had half-expected.
It continued to be mostly a display of unrestrained flair from the Birds with the Timberwolves backed tightly into their own lair, and a worthy second goal would arrive in the coming five minutes, with Aw Keng Chuan
supplying the cross, as he proved quite competent in patrolling the left. 18 year-old Peruvian fullback Leo Minaya did well to limit Aw's crossing options and forced it to go fairly long and outside, but he couldn't have counted on Gandhik Chitre
's invincible confidence in going for a bicycle kick, that froze Toorn on his line. That was 0-2 to the Birds, and hardly something the spectators could moan about!
The hosts continued to flounder for much of the remaining half for all of Trachsler's efforts at relieving the pressure, as he repeatedly insisted on his forwards staying up to peg some of Grilled's men back. That mostly did not work as well as he intended, and with Baena given entirely too much freedom on the right, more attempts were forthcoming. Toorn would slide across slightly late as Teo Chuan Yong
took a subtle Baena pass first-time in the 27th minute, but that could only find the side-netting in any case.
Colorado Timberwolves improved steadily as time wore on, and they were clearly more assured against Grilled's attacking patterns after the first half an hour, even if this did not extend to them being able to mount many of their own. Chia Kwang Tse
's exit for Mohd Marzuki Khairul
had the Birds missing Chia's often-underrated facility in cutting out aerial balls in due time, with Ted de Jongh through in the 58th minute after the Birds were caught napping by Ndiaya Kama's purposeful clearance. Atang Mangoye
chased De Jongh gamely, but had not caught up by the time the Dutch midfielder had rolled it past Manuel Vadalà
for a deserved reducer.
had already had his substitutes warming up on the touchlines when that went in, and the pair of Kalki Parvathaneni
and Mohsen El Khateeb
came on for Teo Chuan Yong
and Gilbert Webb
respectively, before the restart. Egemen Dinçer Ferzan
would also finally be able to have his left ankle looked at, having seemingly tweaked it earlier in the half. The short-term fix was good enough that Ferzan was able to whizz past two defenders ten minutes later, before hooking it sidewards to Kalki. The lob was barely saved on the goalline by Toorn, and the Timberwolves staged a great counter from there, which concluded with Romano Rebov's overpowered free-kick crashing into Vadalà's upright with some ferocity.
Bilal had paced himself more than most as the match entered its final stages, and with more good approach work by Ferzan, he was able to skip in behind Toorn in the 78th minute, only to be taken aback as Tamás Lugosi kept the finish out by a hair; this got the Hungarian trainee much fanfare from the supporters, but there would be no second time lucky, when Kalki went over on a stiff bodycheck right as he dribbled into the penalty area five minutes later. Bilal was nominated to take the penalty, and made it look easy enough.
The Timberwolves were closing the gap against all odds, with their youngsters in particular turning out to have quite a lot left in their collective tanks. This had them pull another back in injury time off a great run from András Darnyi up the left, and one wonders what might have been, had they cut loose earlier on.