Grilled were knocked out in the first round of the HTDT-HT-Cup by Irish III.2 leaders Agharti 23 FC, after failing to make their initial dominance count. The hosts grew from strength to strength under the challenging playing conditions, and a spurt of goals midway through the second half sealed the Birds' fate.
There was no room of second chances in a knockout tourney, and Grilled duly started with about the strongest lineup available to them, with the possible exception of Bhavya Panigrahi
for Yuta Nakakita
at the back, and Chu Xin Lee
on the bench. To this, Agharti responded with a standard 3-5-2, and featured their notably-tall midfield three anchored by captain Carlos O'Neill. Kilkenny heartthrob Maurice Devro - capped seventeen times for the Irish U-20 - would be their leading man in attack.
It was another international speed merchant who stole the limelight, though, as Vikram Mudaliar
took several defenders on a ride, after picking the ball up perhaps ten yards inside their territory. None of them thought him a serious threat that far out, and by the time he knocked it past an over-advanced Dean O'Sullivan, it had become a straight footrace, and one that Nathaniel Leahy was never going to win. The leftback made a manly go of it, but Mudaliar would slot it past Neil O'Dwyer by himself easily, instead of availing himself of Chan Ze Han
's parallel run.
Leahy had other attributes to make up for his comparative lack of pace, that much was certain, as Agharti explored the wide areas when in possession. Leahy's practised link-up play with Julian O'Brien was one thing, but as Massoud Dob
would soon realize, he had a wicked left boot on him too. With Devro peeling Gilbert Webb
away, Leahy had a brief glimpse of the top corner, and that was more than enough for the equalizer.
The balance of the match probably tilted Grilled's way after that, although they never quite managed to make the most of it. Steve Barry's bad pass right to Kalki Parvathaneni
in the 24th minute would be neutralized by his mates, even if Kalki did put Grilled up with a powerful drive a couple of minutes later anyway. Agharti nearly answered immediately via Jeffrey Tobin's flicked header, but that bounced off the top of the crossbar.
and Chu Xin Lee
came on for Davlatov and Kalki for the second half, but they wouldn't exactly cover themselves in glory, with what happened. It wasn't as if Agharti were a changed team, and their second equalizer - from Kingsley Sheehan's tap-in, 53 minutes in - could be attributed to a silly error between Yuta Nakakita
and Dob. Luck wasn't on the Birds' side either, with Cyril Künzler
's excellent free-kick coming back off the bar, to be swiftly put behind.
This was about when the Birds began to wilt, as it became evident that Agharti had managed to conserve plenty of stamina with their defensive stance. With about twenty minutes remaining, the moment had come to expend it, and they found Grilled rather unprepared to deal with massed breakouts. Jeffrey Tobin somehow found himself taking the ball up from the left side, but that was no inconvenience, as he arrowed his side into the lead.
Grilled had not began to recover, when they were again hit by another full-on push, with Freddie Regan looping it over Massoud Dob
, helped by a flashy bit of skill; Peter Tambling extended the nightmare with a fifth goal, and the Birds were well and truly buried.