Costa Rican Division Two side Os Merlines FC started a strong selection against the visiting Birds, and reaped the rewards as they battered Grilled seven-one. The likes of Clark Won
and Hariharan Prabhu
were given a no-holds-barred schooling in what they can expect to encounter as regulars, as nippy Belgian winger Gervais Lethé had a field day bombing up from rightback.
Having being denied promotion only due to goal difference, Merlines were undoubtedly tough customers, and league Golden Boot winner Domingo Alemán was soon finding all the right angles from the hole. Barely eight minutes had gone by when he bent one down the left for Lethé, who eagerly struck it beyond Krystian Rykowski
Lethé then earned the rather-soft free-kick that led to Dieter Wullfen's goal in the 18th, as he appeared to stumble by himself with Remco van der Ban
merely in attendance. Wullfen would be heavily involved for a stretch, as he went from assisting a flawless Alemán in the 29th minute, to breaking the Grilled defence apart by himself in the 31st minute to make it 4-0.
Alemán would then give Rashid bin Ahmad
something to think about, as he rounded the former Singapore youth international with disarming ease to open the way for a fifth. Pompeo Bellamoli
would then attempt a reply at the other end, but Lethé was as active in defence as attack, and cut the Italian down as he was about to enter the penalty area. The yellow card wound up to be well-sacrificed, as Rinor Isufi
hit a disappointing effort well over from the free-kick.
's previous extertions were plain to see as he struggled painfully to contain Lethé on his flank, but despite all of his extensive tactical knowledge, the fullback's sheer speed was often too much to handle. Thus it was in the 64th minute, as Lethé went on another of his marauding sprints, and surprised Rykowski with an incredible shot to the near top corner.
was given his chance with ten minutes to play, but with little immediate effect as acting skipper Hilal Bakhtiar
made a careless pass that Emzar Goderdzishvili promptly stole. Rykowski made a valiant attempt to recover, but the quick-thinking Goderdzishvili sidestepped the incoming goalie for a simple tap-in.
The hosts seemed to relax after that, though they weren't about to make it easy for the Birds either, as Fredrik Bladflod denied Leong Wan Kang
with a goalline stop. Grilled would finally get their consolation in the 87th minute, as Tian Yonghang
threaded one of his specials through a crowd to spoil Juan Aguilar's clean sheet.