AKB Make It
The Birds might have been overwhelming favourites going into today's league contest against Mayuyu AKB48, but the stars would align against them, and the hosts would instead grab their first win of the season. A drought in both creation and finishing plagued Grilled as they looked positively out of sorts, contrasting heavily with the Mayuyu lads, who played out of their hearts despite the relatively thin crowd of less than thirty thousand making it here.
The Woodlanders had lost their first two games, if by just 1-2 each time, to Controlar and then Phantasm Hotspurs. On hindsight, this might have suggested that Sergio García de Camargo's team were actually a sight more solid than their points total indicated, and with the head coach's 39th birthday falling today, Mayuyu captain Lucas Wauquier had led the others in promising him a gift - and what a present it turned out to be.
While Turkish custodian Hızır Arkın had not managed to win his place back from longtime Number One Philip Boestlinger, S$7.3 million Canadian winger Jonathan Duhamel would start on the right for them, with Mayuyu's squad having seen gradual if consistent additions by De Camargo over the past years. Brian Reddy
would finally make his league debut for the Birds to heavy anticipation, but it didn't turn out quite as he had hoped, with both Antonio Olivieri and Asier Burboa making it their main business to keep up with him.
Shorn of an obvious point of attack, Grilled found themselves outworked by Mayuyu's honest 4-4-2, to the delight of their supporters. Mayuyu moreover found themselves outflanking the Birds with some regularity, thanks to their forwards being willing to go the extra mile, which had Damian Hutter
caught dreaming as Joonas Ahola threatened to nip behind him on the outside in the 16th minute. The Grilled fans' yells alerted himn in time then, but Mayuyu continued plugging away, and it was Hunor Inczédi to make his move as Olivieri made his run ten minutes later, for his fifth goal against Grilled.
The Birds seemed almost puzzled as they trudged back into their own half for the restart, seeing as to how they had comfortably outdone Mayuyu in possession thus far. The game did resume expected service shortly after, as Phua Ming Xin
got Grilled back into it at 1-1, as Brian Reddy
finally strutted his stuff. The wing superstar exhibited his grittier side as he chased Burboa down to snuff out a panicked clearance attempt, before turning former Slovakian youth international Rudolf Kefalín inside out - while somehow finding Phua in mid-turn.
then raised some gasps with a fancy lob that breezed just over the bar, and while it might not have gone in, this was an encouraging sign for those who thought the Polish striker too one-dimensional in his approach. Grilled would reach half-time probably the more confident of the two, but any such pretensions would soon be rudely shattered. Mayuyu might have been putting most of their energies in warding Grilled off, but when Anders Ekborn smashed a thirty-plus yarder past Dimitris Germanakos
in the 58th, catching the Greek goalie marginally off his line, there was the sense that it just wasn't going to be the Birds' day.
It would be three for Mayuyu nine more minutes later, as Grilled struggled for fluency in getting the ball into the opposition box, not helped by Tokarz and Joe Reece
dropping unnecessarily deep for long periods. Federico Parada
, so brilliant in so many respects, would eventually be found wanting in his more defensive duties against Jonathan Duhamel once more. With Joonas Ahola holding Hutter off, Duhamel would gain the extra few metres he needed, and his drive into Germanakos' far bottom corner was perfect.
That led to somewhat frazzled tempers on the Birds end, and Chad Thach
would be booked in the 74th minute, for a mean trip on Gustavo Favari having lost out in a fifty-fifty challenge. Grilled were admittedly pressing the home team hard at this time, though, but Phua Ming Xin
would find himself up against an immovable object in Philip Boestlinger; having had a good attempt redirected by the goalkeeper on his initial dribble, Phua would ram it hard as Parada returned the save with alacrity, but Boestlinger proved as nimble with his feet as with his hands in again clearing his lines.
Instead, Mayuyu nearly shocked Grilled once more as they continued using the touchline, moreover with an element of whiling away the minutes now. With Aw Keng Chuan
trying to force play up the field, Anders Ekborn found himself unattended in the 80th minute as Favari sent it through, but he couldn't quite keep his shot down. Mohd Marzuki Khairul
would raise temperatures as he dazzled with some flashy footwork before finding the net in injury time, but that was as far as Grilled would come today.