It was heartbreak at twelve yards for the Birds and the Buns, as they tumbled out of their respective tourney playoffs. For Grilled Birds, they had advanced to the second round, after edging Norwegian IV.39 champions Drillos Disipler in the first. Cyril Künzler
's early penalty kick had been brilliantly saved by Magne Melberg, but there would be no stopping Kalki Parvathaneni
's rocket, which came right after Bhavya Panigrahi
's entrance for the second half.
Disipler's best opportunity would fall to Sindre Geithung in the 55th minute as the fullback thundered through on the overlap, but he clipped the top of the crossbar. It would be Kalki grabbing the limelight for the remainder of the game, and he would not be helped by the woodwork either, striking it twice.
The Birds' second round opponents would be Nobike of the Swedish Ib, a proud club whose history predates Grilled's own. Having also won by the lone goal - against Denmark's kato4 - in their knockout opener, they took after Disipler in their knack for shooting from deep. There would be no goals in the first half, a nervous period that was punctuated by frequent Florus Romijn
activity on the left.
Other than Romijn, Neeraj Muthyala
was perhaps the Birds' most energetic player, and after getting booked for a saving tackle in the 35th minute, he would come very close with a powerful header in the 67th; the breakthrough would come through supersub Islom Davlatov
, who scored on his initial dribble. Grilled were mostly cruising until Saki Kuismanen raked a tricky skipping shot into the bottom corner with seven minutes remaining, which would be compounded by Muthyala getting sent off for a second yellow, over his protests.
Grilled retook the lead quickly, with Gilbert Webb
's nod on from a corner kick hammered in by Yuta Nakakita
, but Nobike would once again respond, this time through Chinese veteran Mo Zi. The Swedes were definitely more well-prepared for the shootout, and after Cyril Künzler
's calm conversion, both Yuta and Moey would have their takes stopped by Jerzy Jaszczyński, handing Nobike a 4-1 shootout win.
remained proud of his warriors. "That's eight wins and two draws in regular time, against some of the best that the world had to offer. Muthyala should have stayed on, in my opinion - extra time could have been quite different then."
There was no time to mourn for striker Vikram Mudaliar
, who was due to start for the Lions against Romania in Cluj. He would wind up winning the national friendly for Singapore courtesy of a composed finish with eight minutes remaining, after having patiently drawn Dragoş Anca out of position. This was Mudaliar's first international goal, on his sixth appearance.
It was a similar story for the Farmer Bunnies, who again fell at the first hurdle, this time to All Canadian team Ragged Ass Rumblers. Buns head coach Dalibor Kostadinović
had heavily tailored his approach, in this clash of the reigning Canadian Royal Cup and Singaporean Emerald Challenger Cup holders - Farmer Bunnies would play an exceedingly uncharacteristic 2-5-3, and aggressively press Rumblers back for all they were worth.
This was vindicated by the on-pitch development, with Jon Benson
recording the only strike of note in the entire 120-odd minutes, which would be deflected barely wide by Lemay Deese's step-in. The Buns were perfectly fine with it going to penalties... but hadn't counted on the Rumblers being specialists too. Literally everyone had a turn as the spot kick roulette went to thirteen
apiece, up until former Uruguayan national custodian Enrique Palmeiro guessed right on Benson's by-the-book placement.
Losing this way was a bitter pill to swallow, both for the Northern Irish midfielder, and for the Bunnies as a whole. "It was epic, you have to admit." Kostadinović managed. "I couldn't have asked for more from the team."