The Replacement Players
Current Pakistan Premier League leaders The international psychopaths, only a season removed from the national title, were unfortunately unavailable for Grilled's visit to their The Darkness Within stadium. The Birds would have to make do with an offering of unofficial third and fourth-stringers, and this bunch of aspiring locals wouldn't bite too deeply into Grilled's reserves... until the very end.
It was certainly a letdown for the fans too, who had expected the likes of former national treasure Aziz Sikandar to make an appearance, as he had in past weeks. Finnish gaffer Toni-Markus Uljas had other priorities, though, which left unexpected captain Sharif Dildar and his teammates very happy campers indeed.
They definitely were up for it, and gave the Birds a lot more trouble than they had expected for a time. Their wonky defending gifted Dante Tran
a simple opener in the fourth minute, but their energy allowed themselves an equalizer by the 13th. There was no lack of red shirts when Usama Rizwan swung a serviceable corner in then, and Dildar led by example with an uncompromising header against José Luiz Velho
's weak challenge.
The Psychopaths stand-ins faded fast too, not unexpectedly given that many of them were amateurs who hadn't even been assigned their own squad number, and the match swung Grilled's way. Dante Tran
and Chirag Thevar
weren't the most dynamic duo either, but they didn't have to be, to hold the fort as the regulars did the conjuring. Jérémy Tarin
cut in to assist Islom Davlatov
in the 25th, before Hoàng Trung Quá
added a third despite all but minding his own business.
Davlatov would then be carded for a mean trip on Ismail Uns, which had the home support booing, but it would merely be the prelude for a Chan Ze Han
goal on the break. Davlatov had enough grace not to over-celebrate his second - and Grilled's sixth - when it came, two minutes after Moey Xin Seng
's pinpoint header after a series of fiercely-contested Tarin corners.
A creaky 43 year-old Rashid bin Ahmad
came in together with Pompeo Bellamoli
for the second half, but he wouldn't have to run much, if at all, as the Birds continued to string their opponents along. The action would be much more muted all around, though, with Grilled apparently not overly interested in running up the score.
Then again, the Psychos' own efforts could not be entirely discounted, with striker Mujahid Omair especially refusing to lose hope, as he battled from his own half. Grilled would finally begin to turn the heat up again with about ten minutes left, and Bellamoli couldn't resist taking a few men on, before a crisp loft into space. Chan Ze Han
saw that coming, and chipped the oncoming goalie.
would come on for Chirag Thevar
after the latter pulled a hamstring late, but from how Kalki Parvathaneni
made it 1-8, and Chan Ze Han
nearly 1-9 from a free-kick follow-up, it felt like the usual stroll-in-the-park friendly. The hosts didn't agree, however, as the fallout from Chan's miss transformed into a rapid invasion of Grilled's right flank. Omair's hard work finally paid off in a way, as his saved strike was converted by the late-arriving Abdullah Baloch.
That sure woke the Psychos support up, and they would have a lot more to celebrate, as Rashid's lack of pace was cruelly exposed by Tauqir Durrani next. There would be yet one more goal for them to savour, with Krystian Rykowski
allowing Ismail Uns' hopeful volleyed attempt to slip behind him.