The Birds advanced in the Ravens Trophy after seeing the Michigan-based Saint Juanesburgo off 4-2, completing the job in their most outstanding first-half in a long while. Juanesburgo had struggled to break down a stubborn Gotham City Corp. on Sunday, and bore the mental scars of that as they moped aimlessly in attack until it was too late.
35 year-old Polish striker Oskar Stawski led a proud Juanesburgo XI out, but it was soon clear that although they were just about to hold their own in central midfield, they were getting steamrolled whenever Grilled utilized width. Off-form Englishman Alfie Robert was especially targeted, and he was fortunate that his loss of the ball to a nippy Kalki Parvathaneni
in the 11th minute didn't result in anything permanent.
The danger was hardly past quickly as Ron Rutherford got booked for elbowing a Grilled player out of the way of the rebound, but Cyril Künzler
skewed that free-kick somewhat side. He made no mistake in the 21st, however, and it would take all of Clayton Hili's reflexes, to stop an overcharged Islom Davlatov
from a corner some time on. Hili however didn't count on Yuki Irie
seeing that coming with his ample experience, and it was 2-0 anyway.
Juanesburgo were seriously wilting under the Birds' non-stop running, with much of it due to the apparently indefatigable Davlatov, and a third was immediately forthcoming with his little touch through for Chan Ze Han
, who has become increasingly eager to shoot. A few minutes on, and it was Davlatov himself who finished, off a flowing breakaway after Christos Atzamidakis lost it on a promising Juanesburgo push.
One could understand if Grilled's opponents looked just a bit deflated as referee Raimi Buchanan spared them time added on by blowing on the dot, but they would at least not suffer the same fate in the second half as the Birds cooled off significantly.
Now clearly with a mandate of avoid unnecessary wear and injury, Grilled were far less scary in lower gear, and Juanesburgo's more-deliberate passing game could begin to shine. Aussie playmaker Ron Rutherford began to craft his intricate plays, and Stawski made the most of a half-chance in the 61st, parlaying his step advantage on Yuta Nakakita
into a flaming hit past Valentin Batâr
That gave them more hope than the scoreline seemed to warrant, and for once, Juanesburgo were the ones causing trouble. By keeping it tight and holding possession, they lured Grilled into some unwise commitments near the halfway line, before capitalizing with a sudden ball forward. It had the fortune to fall kindly for Sergio Timoteo, who turned sharply and scored with his right foot in one smooth motion.
Smelling a whiff of real danger, assistant coach Luis Alcántara thought it was high time to stop fooling about, and he sent Iman Eshrafi
on for the increasingly-ineffective Parvathaneni, with instructions to get himself stuck in. This the young Iranian did all too willingly, as he made himself a right nuisance all over the pitch.
Juanesburgo's midfielders didn't fare quite as well with Eshrafi and others biting at their heels, and with five minutes remaining, it was Grilled legend Tian Yonghang
's turn to embrace his new role as a spoiler. This he did almost too well, and the Birds saw it through to the final whistle without further incident.