|Season 75||W||5 - 0||Tournament (Group Phase)|
Four seasons after Grilled Birds ripped them 5-0 in this tournament, English club White Rose of Yorkshire would come much closer to making it a contest today, having risen to - and fallen from - Division Three in the meantime. Their player churn had also been considerable, with only Kylian Pardoel, Lai Zhijie and Arkadiusz Milik remaining, from the starting eleven that day. Losses in the first two rounds meant the Lightning had no way to make it through, but they could certainly bring the Birds down with them by denying a win - or even enough goals.
The trio are of course getting on in years, with Pardoel - the youngest - soon to be 36, but they would be mobile enough in the first half at least. Up top, they had credible threats in Bobby Charlton - original name Kennedy Naylor-Gray - and Italian forward Giovanni Cicirelli, with support striker Vince Bevan fitting his role like a glove. Cicirelli in particular had individual pace to spare, which he deployed with the Grilled centrebacks having wandered too far upfield. Jānis Salmiņš
showed his mettle by engaging in a straight race, and came up tops with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle outside the penalty area.
That bit of excitement over, it was the Birds' turn to ask the questions, and Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
would outdo Cirirelli in similar circumstances. Football being a team sport after all, Abd Hadi had no qualms making use of Chan Ze Han
as he embarked on his own sprint inside, and was well-served by the automatic return assist. It would shortly afterwards be 2-0 by the 29th minute, as Vikram Mudaliar
did his thing. That was a classic basic centre-forward's strike after the ball was put through by Bilal Mohammad Harun
, but Mudaliar will surely take more of them, whether humdrum or spectacular.
The Birds would ease up slightly after that, which was probably a mistake. The Lightnings would be much more competitive at a slower pace, with Cicirelli and Svirčević more than able to hold their own against Grilled's midfield. The latter would slide it along the touchline for Senegalese veteran Mamour N'Guett to chase in the 37th minute, and from the resulting cross, Charlton would outjump Bhavya Panigrahi
, to nudge a header in off the near post.
would be replaced by Sølve Lunde
for the second half, but that wouldn't stop Lai Zhijie from equalizing five minutes in, as an inspired N'Guett slipped into the box from the left with some tricky dribbling. The Birds seemed possibly on their way out at this, despite Shiawase having done their part by running up a two-goal lead against Gibbo Utd. Chan Ze Han
's precise sharpshooting into the top corner in the 57th would duly be cancelled by a Vince Bevan breakthrough, more or less concurrent with Vladan Ljubinković reducing for Gibbo Utd on a counter.
Grilled were really starting to feel the pressure, especially as they needed to score twice in the final half-hour, as things stood. Bilal took Milik on in the 68th minute and eventually rounded him, but his pot-stop just before getting closed down by Pardoel would fly just over. There would be a free-kick some thirty-odd yards out after that, and Panigrahi delivered it nicely into the six-yard box. The Lightnings were back in force, though, and would clear into touch following brief panic.
The English club were however also unavoidably gassing, given how many of their players were on the wrong side of thirty-five, and Hilal Bakhtiar
wasn't one to pass up on that. He would take Moey Xin Seng
off for Kalki Parvathaneni
in the 80th minute, which instantly got them one of the two goals they needed, as Chu Xin Lee
got through to chip Chalika nicely, on the restart. This was accompanied by good news from the other fixture, that Polang Mon had made it 3-1, which meant that Grilled would be through if no more goals were scored in either match.
This was still quite a precarious position to be in, with Gibbo Utd definitely capable of pulling another goal out of the bag, and the Birds would continue turning the screws. A very busy first two minutes of added time would see Chu and then Mudaliar denied by the woodwork and goalie respectively, but Kalki would finally put it through Chalika's legs after closing in with a determined dribble, to settle it once and for all.