PHill The Berned
The Birds' Pacific Cup campaign would get off the ground with a six-nil demolition of Oceanian IV.16 side Pendle Hill Conures, whose intention to hit Grilled on the counter was perhaps just a bit too overt, at least after awhile. That was not to detract from their very real grit in defending - just that there wasn't nearly enough in the remaining departments, to give Grilled room for thought.
This fixture would take a little longer to get started than usual, as referee Xie Zenan demurred on whether the Conures' away black-with-green-diagonal was distinct enough from the Birds' home green, which was finally confirmed in the affirmative. The Aussie side would then deploy in a 5-3-2, which took no time at all to be shelled by fierce Grilled strikes - Moey Xin Seng
would send one past the outside of Bulgarian goalie Krastyo Adamov's post barely into the second minute, with Adamov then having to be on his toes, when Bernie Egan
put it into his box a bit later.
Pendle Hill Conures would stabilize somewhat after that initial wobble, much of it due to the efforts of American skipper Kendal Stockdale, who had really matured since arriving as a much-heralded twenty year-old, for a respectable five million dollars. He had struck up a great understanding with Timmy Wirrpanda particularly since then, and they together were responsible for much of their side denying Grilled's strikers, for as long as they did.
They weren't able to offer a credible threat to the Birds on the offensive, though, and it was only thus to be expected that they would crack under the non-stop assault, eventually. It would take some uncommon invention from Chu Xin Lee
, granted, as he confused Wally Neill delightfully, by playing the ball with his heel behind his own back. The other defenders were mesmerized for a moment too, which was sufficient for Chu to stick it home.
It was thus 1-0 for Grilled in the 27th minute, as the Conures returned to grimly holding out; they mounted a good counter following Salah Kamel
's miss ten minutes later, and Bhavya Panigrahi
was fortunate to get off scott-free, after he brought Levi Nabuli down as the last man. Gilligan was furious at the leniency shown, and his mood wasn't helped as Malcolm Mimura went for placement over power, and had his effort scooped up easily by Manuel Vadalà
The buzz swiftly returned to the other end of the pitch, as Grilled sought to pad their lead before the break, and Moey Xin Seng
saw his mighty drive come right back off the crossbar. Chan Ze Han
's instincts were once again spot-on here, and he would be first to react. A nifty first touch took Wirrpanda out, and Chan would go on to put it past Adamov with a calm sidefooted finish.
Half-time came and went with Chu Xin Lee
out and Bilal Mohammad Harun
in, and truth been told Chu had been less than overwhelming, his gem of a goal aside. Bilal would bring a palpably steadier hand to the till in midfield, which would be reflected in the visitors' machinations having less and less of an impact. The Number Six was not lacking going forward either, and his strong rush from deep was the catalyst for Bernie Egan
's finish, in the 56th minute.
The Irishman was only starting to enjoy himself, as he revelled in teasing Stockdale from the left, and his experience would begin to tell as Conures' defence got pulled out of shape. Egan knew exactly where to be when Teo Chuan Yong
made to cross in the 69th minute, with his header seemingly also coming off Mimura's back, to fool the goalie. This would however also be Teo's last contribution of the match, as he was taken off for Wu Jinglong
Wu had legs to spare as a twenty-minute sub, and he would be heavily involved in two big chances in the ensuing minutes - with Salah Kamel
polishing off the first, and Chan Ze Han
denied by a superb Adamov stop for the second. Heng Dong Chu
would in turn go off in the final minute for Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
, and as it happened, just in time for Egan to claim a hat-trick on the restart.