Grilled Birds again did their bit in the World Battle tournament against Azerbaijani II.2 side PandaMode, and Irish forward Bernie Egan
led the charge in a very busy ninety minutes, that resulted in a brace for himself. The final 4-1 score was pretty respectable, considering that PandaMode have been credibly pushing to promote to the Güclülər Dəstəsi for some seasons now, having finished runners-up in their latest Division Two campaign.
PandaMode hadn't skimped on their lineup, with Swiss core player Ronny Vonbank and Hungarian right forward Ferenc Sulija raring to go. Their homegrown goalkeeper Tahir Bayramov had been lauded as being of national-team standard too, with some wondering why he had not yet been capped. That acknowledged, Bayramov would have a rough go of it in the first fifteen minutes, as the Birds took the initiative in this clash of full-on attacking styles.
Grilled were perhaps slighly fortunate that the early balance tipped their way, as they were the beneficiaries of a few close calls. One of these, an indirect free-kick in the tenth minute, would eventually lead to Egan's opener, as he cut loose from the right side after considering his options. Grilled would be more direct with their next free-kick, as Cyril Künzler
powered it at Neeraj Muthyala
for a barely-there touch that threw Bayramov off sufficiently.
PandaMode were down but hardly out, and were buoyed by the unstinting support of their travelling fans. They proved to be at least Grilled's equal in offensive focus when they set their mind to it, as they did right after Muthyala's goal. Grilled's defence was caught woefully unprepared as Vonbank simply slid it down the middle, and Hikmət Quliyev kept himself on the correct side of Yuta Nakakita
to rule out a possible challenge, before clipping it past Massoud Dob
The early hubbub died down after that, as Moey Xin Seng
deliberately guided the rhythm down several beats, by very obviously seeking to play safe passes. PandaMode weren't able to press the attack freely under such circumstances, but Rüfət Vəkilov in particular posed an ever-present threat to break past the last man. This state of relative torpor would last until the 59th minute, when Vikram Mudaliar
skipped to the outside of Jacob-Jan Blog with monstrous acceleration, and got the finish right from a narrowing angle.
This would also be Chan Ze Han
's last involvement in this tournament game, as he was replaced by Kalki Parvathaneni
after a solid if not exactly memorable hour. Moey Xin Seng
received the captain's armband, although that didn't have much of an effect on the status quo.
The Azerbaijanis were running out of patience now, but they would find that trying to force a way through could cost them, as it did in the 73rd minute. Their midfield had pushed too deeply on a wide front, and Kurtis Lee for one was nowhere close to Heng Dong Chu
as the Grilled winger made a beeline for PandaMode's goal on a neat interception. Heng had the presence of mind to unload on Bernie Egan
as both centrebacks converged on him, and Egan wouldn't disappoint with his control and nerves, to make it 4-1 Grilled Birds.
All present recognized that that was probably it, less perhaps Ferenc Sulija, who nevertheless threw himself into an unneeded sliding tackle on Bilal Mohammad Harun
, which led to some choice words exchanged between the two. That was a yellow for Sulija. PandaMode did nearly get a second through Kurtis Lee's instant volley in the 81st, which would be tipped aside by Dob, before Kalki's own mazy incursion ended with a poor shot.