Busted By Celtic
Scottish H.I. club Celtic Brno FC bundled Grilled Birds out of the Mönninghof Cup in the semifinals today, after the Birds were unable to recover from their early collapse. Little should be taken from Celtic, that said, who were utterly brutal when they had to be.
This had been evident when Celtic dismantled SRILA last Monday, and they understandably made as few changes as possible - with the exception of veteran German midfielder Konrad Kopfab, who had transferred to Italy's goldenboy team. Due to that, Vincenzo Scifo would move inside, while Marco Asensio took up the wing in his stead.
Grilled kept with Bernie Egan
in defence, but while this expedient fix had served the team well in previous rounds, they wouldn't get away with it today, not against the raw strength of Granit Xhaka. Xhaka and de Bruine were a complete mismatch for Egan, as the Birds belatedly realised, and there was next to nothing the Irishman could do as Xhaka bore down on him in the 14th minute. The ball was plugged towards the far corner before help could arrive, and Bogdan Stancu made sure it went in.
That setback aside, the Birds were actually edging it in midfield, with Chu Xin Lee
adapting nicely to a more deep-lying role. He spotted Cyril Künzler
doubling up on the left, and struck a laser-guided long pass that the Pole took down delightfully with his shoulder. César Azpilicueta was caught out on Künzler's wrong side as he took the shot quickly, but Gianluigi Buffon sprang up to palm it over.
There would be no such feats from Massoud Dob
at the other end, as Celtic came through with their second and third goals in the space of two minutes. First came another direct run at Egan, this one by Asensio, with the Irishman reluctant to tackle; Dob tried to pick his moment to go for Asensio's legs, but the winger's reflexes were too good. Kevin de Bruine then volleyed another in unmarked from Celtic's next possession, as several Birds players stood about looking confused.
It wasn't that the Birds didn't have their opportunities, but Celtic did enough to direct them to wide positions. Chu Xin Lee
's bid for a quick response was let down by an atrocious finish on his weaker foot, before Buffon again got his fingertips to another Künzler breakthrough in the 33rd minute. Celtic then went up to 4-0 a few minutes into the second half, thanks to a skilful lob from Xhaka, and it was clear that Grilled were cooked.
They would minimally not go out empty-handed, as Kalki Parvathaneni
claimed a consolation in the 54th minute. Vincenzo Scifo was a bit too overconfident in trying to dispossess Kalki, and would be left rooted as the Grilled forward took off. No-one else was close enough to catch up, and Buffon's clean sheet would be no more, following Kalki's inelegant - but effective - rammed effort.
Celtic's answer was to use up their substitutions, with Andrea Pirlo in for Asensio, before freshing up their defence with the duo of Raúl Albiol and Mehmet Topal by the 64th. They certainly cooperated well to force Vikram Mudaliar
to the outside, and Noubaryan would finally then make his changes, taking Moey Xin Seng
and Neeraj Muthyala
off, for Islom Davlatov
and Bilal Mohammad Harun
. Moey and Muthyala had actually not done too badly, and there was an overall sense that it was far too late.
was without a doubt Grilled's most productive member of the day, but he was unfortunate to be up against his nemesis in Buffon. The free-kick earned by Davlatov appeared to be slightly too far out to be a real concern, but Künzler managed to rocket it through a gap in the defensive wall, opened by Mudaliar. No goalkeeper had a right to save that, but Buffon did, arresting himself mid-dive with absurd athleticism.
This sparked off a mad dash down the right wing, with Pirlo's fresh legs seeing him pull away from Romijn, and Stancu smashed a great attempt against Dob's crossbar. There was scarcely time to think as Yuta Nakakita
kept his head to find Bilal in midfield, and several on-point forward passes later, it would be Vikram Mudaliar
's turn to blame himself, as he shot straight at Buffon after the Celtic defence had been collectively distracted by Chan Ze Han
's missed header.
That it was just not Grilled's day would probably be summed up by their final attack of note, coming with ten minutes remaining. A breakdown in understanding between Topal and Buffon saw Davlatov snatch the ball out from right between them, only for him to slip as he swivelled about to place it in the unguarded net. By the time he recovered his footing, Buffon was back in position to collect the unconvincing make-up take.