Chan On Form
Grilled Birds appear tapering well into Sunday's big game against United and then the Ruby Challenger Cup final, as they ousted Ecuadorean II.2 visitors Alba Shingre by four goals to two, in the World Battle tourney. Shingre, founded by the same management as Italy's Alcadia, twice took the lead in the first half, but Chan Ze Han
would drag the Birds over the line, by sheer force of will.
Having won their first three World Battle fixtures, Alba Shingre found themselves humbled 1-5 by three-time Bolivian Copa Zafiro Ronald Raldes holders The Widths last week, and the experience led Honduras player-coach David Correa to take a defensive tack today. Vincenzo Barbiroli drifted to the left as their lone forward, leaving captain Johnny Morán Cabrera to sit deep as part of the midfield.
Grilled had to have gotten somewhat used to this by now, and when their first real incursion through Kalki Parvathaneni
was halted and reversed into a breakout, Bhavya Panigrahi
was quick to foul Antony Serrano early on, before it developed into anything more serious. Spanish veteran Juan Cao de Benos had the right idea in lifting the ball to Barbiroli in the box from the free-kick, but it hung for long enough that Jānis Salmiņš
had an easy claim.
The Birds hit something of a rut after that, and Shingre would find themselves left in possession in advanced positions quite often. They were not bad at retaining the ball either, and a long spell of possession leading into the 25th minute ended with Stéphane Compain popping up, to lash the opener home. It might even have been two just a minute later, but De Benos would swing and miss from two yards out, after a corner kick putback.
Teo Chuan Yong
was eager to change the subject with a speculative attempt from way out when Grilled next held the ball, and in truth Ricardo Nuno Santos didn't look sure if that was going over. Panigrahi would then get on thin ice with a terrible challenge on Barbiroli that might have been a straight red for another referee, and the Shingre fans hadn't yet forgotten that, when Vikram Mudaliar
worked his way past a sluggish Fernando Fabián Pellegrino to equalize.
Well, Alba Shingre were hardly shy in pressing their own case, and they got their next corner spot on - Barbiroli whipped it in at speed to the near post this time, Guillermo Zambrano flicked it on with a glancing header, and Waldemar Należyta was first to the altered trajectory. As before, Shingre made a bid to add another blow on a shaken Grilled, and again the Birds would survive thanks to Kevin Beltrán's loss of composure.
Grilled were all but crying out for leadership at this point, and this would be supplied in deed by Chan Ze Han
, who began calling passes with intensity. Shingre could never quite put a lid on his raw energy, Pellegrino's resolute marking notwithstanding, and there was no stopping the Birds star once Moey Xin Seng
conjured up the return pass he wanted, in the 38th minute. With that, the match would enter half-time tied 2-2.
Shingre made the first substitution of the game, introducing Swedish Number Eleven Marcus Jansson for a slightly-battered Barbiroli over the break, which would presage a relatively dull period with neither side prepared to risk themselves. It would be Bilal Mohammad Harun
's entry for Salah Kamel
that injected more honest graft, and this would be instantly followed by a gamble from Bernie Egan
, that Compain wasn't watching him closely. Egan was correct on that, but Santos was prepared.
And so was it again for the Portuguese custodian against the Irishman four minutes later, when Egan unleashed a fierce grounder at him, but there would be no third time lucky as Egan followed the shot up by himself, to capitalize on the brief spill. Eren Serpin
certainly appreciated his forward's unwavering diligence there, as he gave the thumbs-up from the touchline.
That was Grilled Birds in the lead for the first time in this match, and Shingre would be rather less convincing chasing the match from behind, all the more after the canny Wu Jinglong
replaced Kalki with twenty minutes left. Wu knew exactly what mind game to play, to keep Należyta and De Benos guessing down that left flank, though the fourth goal when it came was all Chan Ze Han
's own; how could it not be, when it was delivered from almost the centre circle?
Shingre would have one last pile-on towards the end of injury time, with Santos himself joining the fray in good humour, but the Birds would hold firm and eventually watch Cabrera ping the crossbar after some goalline clearances. Teo made to target the opposition's now-unguarded goal, but would be beaten by a prompt final whistle.