Grilled Birds' return to the World Battle tournament had them defeat Aquino Team of the Philippines Football League, but alas ended in a loss for the S-League as a whole, after Grilled's tourney mates lost their way. In any case, it remained a morale-lifting encounter for the Birds, who had to come from behind twice before pulling away from the former Ruby Challenger Cup winners.
At just 31 years of age, Danish player-coach Aage Tang might not have been easily recognized as the man in charge, but his exuded an air of having been around the block, as he directed a team of his peers from the touchline. Spanish Number Ten Ignacio Torres Guzmán has been regarded as the marquee player of this team, and he would start in midfield, in a 4-3-3 heavily overbalanced to the right side, in an intriguing play at putting Grilled off their normal game.
It did work, for a time at least, as Aquino's concentration down a single flank overwhelmed Gilbert Webb
, and left an opening for Turkish defender Emre Yahya, from Gyula Márialigeti's canny deferral. Grilled got their own back ten minutes on in the 16th, as Vikram Mudaliar
made a meal of light contact from opposing captain Virgile Thomas. Perhaps not his finest moment, but it left Bhavya Panigrahi
with a job - one that he completed in style with a penalty spot cannonball to Gonzalo Cabañas's top left.
Emre Yahya would have Aquino Team back ahead within two minutes, to the great delight of the home support, as he exhibited great versatility in popping up on the other wing. It seemed that there was far more to Aquino's tactics that first assumed, with Grilled having gotten complacent about that area. It was Panigrahi's turn to be outnumbered, and Yahya would once again provide the extra man to break the Birds' backline for 2-1.
Grilled would again take about ten minutes to muster a reply, though Mudaliar would only put it straight at Cabañas on his breakthrough dribble, and it would require Bernie Egan
to equalize in the 30th minute. Aquino's mind games would strech on into the second half, though at reduced effectiveness as the Birds acclimatized, and Egan would give his team the lead for the first time six minutes after the break. Cambodian fullback Sokhan Rim imagined he had the full measure of Egan's pace, only to be sadly mistaken.
This appeared to have finally broken the psychological hold had Aquino had maintained on the match up till now, and Mudaliar would nearly slide a fourth past Cabañas on the next possession, but Aquino were made of somewhat sterner stuff than that; they rallied admirably around Singaporean expat defensive midfielder Fauzi Matussin, with Ignacio Torres Guzmán sparing no efforts in buying him team valuable time by holding a throw-in up, for which he was booked. Their spirit would be rewarded four minutes later, as Rim profited on a counterattack, and levelled 3-3 with an assured left-footer.
There would be no further goals from the Filipinos, though, as Grilled skipper Moey Xin Seng
took the game over, adding two goals in three minutes in a devastating display of skill and will combined. Aquino Team's fast-fading hopes were dealt a deathblow with Guzmán's departure in the 77th minute for a second yellow card, and Cabañas would have to endure a very busy last ten minutes, which included a magnificent stop off Bernie Egan