Three To The Good
The Birds qualified for the Round of 32 in comfortable enough fashion by defeating Heaven Skys 3-0 at Arch Angel stadium, with all the goals coming in an action-packed first half. The hosts boasted of a very well-regarded local all-star midfield, with Mohd Rosedy bin Mohd Nor, Chew Meng Qiang and Hong Shangxuan all former U-20 regulars, but glaring weaknesses in the other positions condemned them to elimination.
As always, Heaven Skys played to their strengths by moving the ball around the centre of the park as much as possible, but they would always be vulnerable without it, as Tian Yonghang
discovered in the fourth minute. After a hopeful pass to isolated forward Koh Chu Ah was intercepted, no-one picked up Tian's clever dart towards the edge of the Skys area, and it was only his weak swipe that allowed their keeper to keep it out.
The home team came nowhere close to scoring despite having all the possession, and the brightest moments belonged to Grilled, with Walter Ross
a revelation at left-back, where he bombed upfield with alacrity. The match was crying out for a goal, and acting captain Niculae Stanca
supplied it after thirty minutes, as he slid in a low cross from Lefébure.
With his side a goal down, Hong Shangxuan tried to shock his teammates into a response by covering additional ground in midfield, but didn't count on the experienced Gleb Dorogan
intentionally shifting his body between him and the ball, taking the impact, which led to a contested booking for Hong. The unappreciative crowd began to turn hostile after the referee then waved away a penalty claim by Mohd Rosedy.
They didn't have much time to recover before Marc Pujolràs
clipped one home from wide right, making it his third goal in four starts in what might be his breakout season. 38 year-old defender David Andreasson mislaid his ankle trying to block that, and he was replaced by the even older Alfredo Ganca, who looked slightly out of shape.
It simply wasn't Heaven Skys' day, as their best effort of the match bounced off the post, though it did take a couple of deflections after leaving Koh Chu Ah's boot. Stanca then hammered a sitter wide of the mark, but could afford to laugh about it as Safrinho brought the rebound back to score, with Ganca completely unable to keep up with his pace.
That was essentially the job done for Grilled, who were noticeably less interested in being enterprising in the second half. Lin Jungui
did manage a respectable effort early on, but the play was otherwise so uneventful that Han felt it safe to take Pujolràs and Dorogan off with twenty minutes remaining.