3 - 4 Grilled Birds
All Hanns Aboard
Pacheco Picks Up
Division Three City club Hanns ran Grilled Birds close in the second round of the Singapore Cup, and nearly forced extra time despite being three down at the break. The Birds were admittedly still without Moey Xin Seng
and Cyril Künzler
after setbacks to both players' recoveries, but José Luiz Velho
and Prokop Mottl
managed well enough out wide - at least for the first half.
The Birds hadn't managed to start a history with Hanns, despite them having a 32-year tenure in the Singaporean leagues, which has garnered them six Division Four titles. Farmer Bunnies had recorded a one-nil win over them in the inaugural Ruby Challenger Cup - that Grilled eventually won - some thirteen seasons past, but that was a whole generation of players ago. For this meeting, Hanns would have 33 year-old Croatian veteran Rajko Drakula shoring up their midfield, with undisputed Spanish star striker Rodrigo Pacheco up top.
Neither would distinguish themselves much in the first half, with cautious German head coach Marvin Carlier intentionally compacting their 4-3-3. This yielded the wide areas to Grilled, which to be fair wasn't a bad shout, considering their lack of natural wingers. Kalki Parvathaneni
's pace has oft been an unaccountable factor, though, as it was in the seventh minute when he slashed past two hapless Hanns adversaries. Options abounded to both sides, and Chu Xin Lee
wound up with easy pickings for the first goal.
With Künzler absent, Gilbert Webb
took responsibility for free-kicks, and he drew a dramatic one-handed save off Pierre-Yves Virlet in the 14th minute. Hanns were overly predictable in trying to find Pacheco with direct long punts, but their repeated efforts led to a credible change 24 minutes in, when Polish defender Zygfryd Janiak read the game well in pushing up the right; his finishing was much worse than his vision, sadly for Hanns.
Janiak's enterprise would prove his downfall a few minutes on, as Hanns were again found wanting for speed. He was left a step behind Grilled's record outfield signing Bernie Egan
, who had started as point man. Very few defenders would have been able to recover from such a disadvantaged position, and Janiak wasn't one of those, as Egan vroomed on to stick his maiden goal for the Birds past Virlet.
A third was in the works, as Gilbert Webb
bettered his earlier free-kick attempt from open play. With the shaken Hanns side now dropping way back, the Scots centreback was left with way too much space and time, some five yards outside the penalty area. One couldn't be sure if he meant for the ball to swerve as it did, but either way, it found the back of the net.
Hanns' Swiss skipper Pino Gertsch displayed good leadership ability in keeping his teammates' heads up, and he transformed what could have been an utter rout, into a pitched midfield battle. Drakula and company grimly pressed forward against a suffocating Grilled trio, and managed a couple of long shots on Massoud Dob
more to maintain spirits, than in any real expectation of scoring.
The half-time interval marked the hosts' turnaround, as the Birds were hit by the double whammy of complacency and wilting stamina. It transpired that quite a bit of their earlier effectiveness had been due to an unsustainable tempo, which Hanns was now ready to capitalize on. Some six minutes after the restart, Rodrigo Pacheco caught Edgar Ricomà's forward pass nicely on his thigh, and whirled it around Dob in one smooth motion.
Hanns would suffer another setback as Vikram Mudaliar
made it 4-1 for the Birds from a prolonged dribble thanks to a lucky bounce, but there was no doubting that they were looking the better team. It was Grilled's turn to rely on numbers in defence, which encouraged Hanns to go at it from distance. The 68th minute saw Pacheco first-time a sideways lay-off from Jonathan Chaix some thirty yards out, and although Dob seemed to have reached it, he didn't manage to get enough behind it.
Grilled remained with a two-goal cushion, however, and Hovaness Noubaryan
was more than willing for his players to sit on it. This they about managed with Egan being more than willing to drop back for tactical reasons, and Carlier had a few heads scratching with his changes. Yuli Slavinski came in for Martin Czverencz in defence, and Antonio Leoni for Virlet in goal.
Pacheco went for his hat-trick with the full support of his comrades, but Grilled's defence held firm, and completed the ninety minutes still two goals up. The fourth official had no sooner indicated two minutes of time added on, however, when Hanns' direct approach finally came good. Fabio Busin beat Yuta Nakakita
to the header, and Finnish wingback Juuso Nikunlassi would just about scramble it into Grilled's net.
That lifeline brought AESfield alive, and it was all the Birds could do, to grind out the remaining minute. Hanns would have one last free-kick, as Prokop Mottl
took Ricomà down in a rush of blood, but Massoud Dob
would confidently claim the floated free-kick with essentially the entire Hanns team challenging for the ball.