Secunda Come Second
And Mudaliar Third
It was a clash of II.2 teams today, with Lebanon's Secunda hosting Grilled Birds at the whimsically-named your stadium. As with Grilled, Secunda were the owners of multiple Challenger Cups - three in total - though with the Emerald still escaping their possession. The Birds would prevail 3-0 as Secunda elected to defend, and Vikram Mudaliar
would finally make his official return from a near three-week layoff, scoring into the bargain.
Secunda had just won a league qualifier against third division challengers Shaq Attack, and Italian hero Vito Magnani would return - though in central defence instead of on the wing. They weren't altogether taking it easy, given that former national custodian Imad Mourtada started, together with former youth internationals in Jean-Paul Nickts and Sebastián Augusto Gutiez, for Luxembourg and Argentina respectively.
Grilled had brought essentially their A team, though, and it couldn't help but become apparent, all the more against defenders such as Carl El Ghorayeb that were still very much learning their craft. Then again, Chan Ze Han
had his pick of targets after pushing his way through the middle in the 18th minute, even if El Ghorayeb might have done more to inconvenience Florus Romijn
. No trouble for the Belgian wingman in the end, who took a second to compose himself before lobbing Mourtada neatly.
The hosts managed to be fairly creative when the mood took them, and they were most effective utilizing the full width of the pitch, such as with Welsh youngster Andy Jobs - somehow nicknamed "Hands
" - on the left. Nickts had broken the Grilled offside trap and was yelling for it in the middle, but Jobs' attempts at getting the ball to him were prevented by some acrobatic defending. A big clearance saw Kalki Parvathaneni
win a corner, however, and Islom Davlatov
would shove Grilled's second goal in, after Yuta Nakakita
had hammered a volley off the goalpost.
Mudaliar then came in with a third in the 41st, looking as if he had never been away, after sprinting two-thirds the length of the pitch; Reserve goalie Eren Serpin
played a big part there, as he made a double save against Ayman El Khatib from close up. The returning Number Nine might even have grabbed a brace on Grilled's very next possession, but he was too hasty with his weak foot, after rounding Mikko-Pekka Vaha.
The remaining minutes before the break didn't disappoint neutrals much either, with Islom Davlatov
first coming close to being sent off, after Jean-Paul Nickts had picked his pocket in a deep position. Nothing came of Secunda's free-kick, and almost before the spectators took it in, Mudaliar had been bundled over in Secunda's own penalty area. No-one could have complained about the penalty being awarded, but Mourtada took matters into his own hands, by cunningly stepping forward as Cyril Künzler
took the kick. Referee Sławomir Strugacz apparently felt that it was too minor an infringement to require a retake, to Künzler's disbelief.
Grilled weren't about to get too worked up in a friendly - and three goals up at that - understandably, and Hovaness Noubaryan
made nice with his Secunda counterpart Oktawian Gnatek as they strolled down the tunnel together. The Birds then took the pace in the second half, with Chan Ze Han
twisting to-and-fro to force another excellent stop from Mourtada. Mourtada would deny Künzler once more in the 51st minute, with fingertips to a great free-kick.
The Birds weren't coming away from this entirely unscathed, sadly, with Eren Serpin
arching his back in agony following a big catch in a crowd. His professionalism was evident in his refusing to let go of the ball, but Grilled medic Ian Chuang determined swiftly that Serpin wasn't finishing this match. Regular goalie Massoud Dob
was totally fine with a twenty-minute cameo, and consoled Serpin as he came on.
This didn't bode well for Secunda's hopes for a consolation goal at least, and Hoàng Trung Quá
's entry for Gilbert Webb
brought more fresh legs into Grilled's backline. Still, they had their chances, what with it being their turn to counter after an obstruction foul called against Ali Ammar in the 78th. Jobs didn't test Dob with a poor effort, however. Nickts did a lot better after Romijn had given up a free-kick near Grilled's penalty area, but Dob would again save it, albeit with much more difficulty.