Hiten Rukato Seven-Oh
The Birds appeared determined to pack as many losses as they could into a week, although they at least had the excuse of bringing a weakened squad to Kyoto to face Division Two side RukatoMikashita.
Such a result was always on the cards given the gulf between the teams today, with Rukato led out by hometown favourite and former youth international playmaker Yuki Honda. Flanked by fellow U-20 star Naoki Ito and the solid Hirofumi Suzaki, it was a midfield trio that was much more than the Birds' own could bear, especially with Chan Ze Han
having gone off the boil.
The tenor of the match was set early and never changed much, as Grilled were barely able to escape from their own half, under a typically-suffocating Japanese whole-court press. Young Shin Imoto, a late-blooming 21 year-old on only his fourth senior game, made up for lost time with a wonderful volley in the 13th minute.
The Rukato players almost appeared to be as one with the pitch, so accustomed were they to its dimensions, going by their usage of the boundaries. Koji Hara gave the far-younger Prokop Mottl
the run-around 19 minutes in, before sending an oh-so-simple cross over, for Koji Hara to nick in at the far post.
The Czech youngster would not be deterred by that lapse, and was one of Grilled's more-visible players. His day would end prematurely, however, after trying to change directions too quickly, to track Yuma Yoshii slashing inwards some 33 minutes in. Mottl's attempt was in vain as Yuma put it in for 3-0 anyway, and he would be taken off against his protests, as he tried to hobble on.
With Dante Tran
now on, the Birds tried to take the opportunity to regroup, but the hosts were well aware of those intentions. The Magicarps raised the tempo in response, and although Hirofumi Suzaki probably made an error of judgment in shooting where he could have passed, Imoto would grab a second goal in good time, equalling his haul against Austria's Eintracht Mauer last week.
There was little positive to say about Grilled's ambitions even after the restart, and Moey Xin Seng
once more cut a lonely figure, trying to do it all by himself. On the other hand, Rukato's defence was indeed their weakest link by some distance, but the Birds just could not string enough moves together to test it properly.
It was five-nil 63 minutes in, as Tomoaki Ishii anticipated Ryosuke Inoue's intentions perfectly, sprinting past Rashid bin Ahmad
right on time to stay onside as the low cross came in at the near post. Krystian Rykowski
might have gotten to it first had he come out, but he decided to stay on the line, and paid the price.
There was still half an hour more to go, despite the outcome long being determined, and Grilled busied themselves with huddling around their penalty area. This was ultimately not enough against the hosts' expansive game, and the width that their wingers threatened was sufficient to open the centre up in the 79th. Shin Imoto got the better of Gene Filippone
with his willingness to run, completed his hat-trick, and celebrated as if he had won a cup final.
The usually-staid if responsive crowd could not help but be moved at Imoto's pure expression of joy, and Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
's entrance was lost in the overall hoopla. Magicarp had one more goal to go, as Shunta Iinuma bent a seventh home, but there was no question who the occasion belonged to.