2 - 3 Grilled Birds
All For Fun
An exit from cup competition had a silver lining of its own, as Grilled's players - for the first time in a long while - appeared to genuinely be enjoying themselves throughout a match. The mild weather in the French Riviera might have contributed, as the Birds put Hattrick International sixth divisional league leaders Ufana away, by three goals to two.
There was absolutely nothing riding on the outcome for once, and it was just the way many of the Grilled selection liked it. Long-timer assistant coach Luis Alcántara, back in charge for the day, would rotate the entire defence, with oldies Rashid bin Ahmad
and Gene Filippone
protecting reserve goalie Dan Seng
. Other than that, it was a pretty young and sprightly team, helmed by the previously-suspended Islom Davlatov
It wasn't long before they got going, with Davlatov determined to make up for lost time. His potent combination of craft and muscle was too much for Ufana's homegrown defender Ryane Akkache to handle by himself, and all Akkache achieved in the seventh minute was to force the Number Ten to lay it off to his right. Prokop Mottl
was onto that, and bagged despite Donald Probst's urgent dive.
The game was turning into a rout, with Islom Davlatov
doubling Grilled's lead in the 18th, with Bastien Lesieux getting booked into the bargain for trying to fix his mistake by bringing Davlatov down after his chip. Ufana would gain strength from adversity, though, and a few minutes after Dirk-Volker Haide nearly lobbed Dan Seng
successfully on their first real effort, Pierric Barbry would beat Rashid bin Ahmad
to Yanice Roux's flat cross for 1-2.
Ufana would continue pegging the Birds back for the remainder of the half, which brought two changes from Alcántara for the next period - Jérémy Tarin
replaced a less-than-match-fit Filippone, and Polish keeper Krystian Rykowski
, apparently now third choice in the coaches' reckoning, took over from Seng.
Rykowski unfortunately didn't exactly cover himself in glory after being handed this chance, as his first touch would be an entirely avoidable flub. Hervé Huet's downwards header, while decent, was also well within his range, but the ball somehow slipped out of his gloves and across the line, after Rykowski tried to get a grip on it.
The hosts were absolutely battering the doors down after that, and despite Barbry getting the second yellow of the game for a biting tackle on a slightly-cowed Dante Tran
, they were soon back at it again. Rykowski could have been severely embarassed as he found himself in no position to save Haide's drilled free-kick, but got off this time as it found the base of his far post.
Alcántara was not enjoying this turn of events at all, and with their coach starting to vent on the sidelines, Grilled got more serious about defending. They were not above continuing to express themselves freely, and Iman Eshrafi
might have been a tad too casual about his chance in the 59th. Three minutes later, Davlatov tried something new with an indirect free-kick, but Ufana weren't about to fall for that one.
With a draw looming ever closer, Jérémy Tarin
added some spice to the contest, as he shadowed Chan Ze Han
on his mazy dribble down the left, before taking over for the finish. Davlatov could have added another after boxing Haide out rather crudely, only to hit the post with Probst at his mercy.