No Closer Than Before
Micky Wins Hearts
It was Grilled International's turn to grace The Cooking Pot for the first time, two seasons after suffering a turnaround 2-5 loss in Brunei, and they found that while they might have made large strides themselves, the Birds had covered even more ground. At the end, it was a friendly with something for everybody - a full-on rout for the home faithful, two Micky bin Kadir
specials for the travellers, and nine goals total for the neutral lot.
While the bulk of both teams remained the same from then, the Birds' inclusion of Moey Xin Seng
and Chan Ze Han
was a fresh sight, with International in turn parading relative newcomers Ragib Banović
and Wang Chu Chi
. The lazy Sunday morning attracted a shade over three thousand to watch, and though the game began almost congenially, the players' competitive natures didn't take long to surface.
It turned out that the Birds had rather higher stakes to raise to, and International's determination not to be drawn into a siege would prove a double-edged sword. Chu Xin Lee
grew easily into his conducting midfield role, well-supported by the Birds' significantly more fluid forwards. Moey's clever pullback in the 17th minute bought Cyril Künzler
just enough of a distraction to sneak in for Chu's chipped pass, and the Pole pumped it straight past Querubim Santos Couto
The Birds were turning this into attacking practice with a not-fully-recovered Wang Hanxuan
starting to fall behind the pace. Twenty-four minutes in, Künzler floated a searching cross in for Iman Eshrafi
to drop by Couto with his forehead. International's defence continued struggling to cope, and Kalki Parvathaneni
sped through with the ball at his feet for a third, a short while after that.
It wouldn't be all a downer for the vocal visiting support, at least, with Querubim Santos Couto
putting his agility on display against an excellent Künzler free-kick curler. Their unswayed devotion to taking the ball upfield when it could would then pay off, as Hoàng Trung Quá
was fended off by Micky bin Kadir
, once the International star got his bead on goal. Massoud Dob
managed the angles well, but Micky put in a near-perfect toepoke, that went in off the post.
Even the Grilled Birds fans could appreciate that one, all the more given the scoreline, and the match went on in a refreshingly busy yet casual fashion. Ragib Banović
exemplified action as he buzzed about, and got himself in a number of interesting positions around the interval. However, effective back-up was not forthcoming on those occasions.
There were fewer such concerns on the Birds' end, and Florus Romijn
had several plausible targets calling for the ball, when he shrugged off Zaini bin Hj Kaling
on a left-sided incursion in the 53rd minute. Dodging Sazwan bin Hj Muhd Salleh
's attentions brought him back outside, if closer to the middle, though, and he caught Couto napping with a fierce drive low to the opening that the goalie yielded.
International couldn't be faulted for lack of trying, and Wang Chu Chi
all but ran himself in the ground, and had to have his knee looked at. The Birds generously welcomed the enforced stoppage, and mingled amicably with their visitors over plastic cups of energy beverages. It was straight back to business after that, and Künzler put the Birds 5-1 ahead from the penalty spot, following a blatant clinch by Sazwan on Eshrafi almost on the goalline.
There wasn't much of a stir when Chu Xin Lee
clipped another home for the Birds six minutes later, neat as Moey Xin Seng
's headed assist might have been. Contrariwise, the underdogs would get much more love, when Micky bin Kadir
arrived on cue to score his second goal in the 77th minute. Osertz Indurain
's whipped pass wasn't cut out properly by Neeraj Muthyala
, and Micky managed to retrieve it in shooting range.
Hoàng was replaced by Yuki Irie
with ten minutes remaining, and the Birds would make it 7-2 shortly after, with Chan Ze Han
getting the most out of Romijn's little pullback. One sensed that few would have minded had Micky bin Kadir
completed his hat-trick, or Ragib Banović
obtained the goal he had been toiling so hard for, but the clock was working against them.