Neeraj's Ankle Too
The first round 10-0 cup win against amateur side Sentosa Athletic didn't raise many eyebrows, and the Birds might well wonder if the long-term injury to important midfielder Neeraj Muthyala
was worth it. Vikram Mudaliar
made the most of a bad deal anyway, as he collected his fifth career hat-trick for Grilled, only a few weeks after achieving the same against Joker 9B.
No bets were being collected on this game, and it would have been easy to accuse Grilled Birds of being unsporting, from how they deployed what was essentially their entire first team. 37 year-old Hoàng Trung Quá
at leftback was probably the only exception, but from Gilbert Webb
's continuing slump, it wasn't such a clear-cut downgrade either.
Athletic captain and midfielder Azlisham bin A. Rahman was the very picture of amateur exertion, but there really was nothing to compare between the sides. They did hold out for ten very hardworking minutes, in which retiree goalie Tu U-Jung had sacrificed his face to stop a stiff Kalki Parvathaneni
banger. One couldn't fault him much for not trying too hard when Chan Ze Han
reared up in the tenth minute, then.
The Birds would then score every minute from the thirteenth onwards, until it was 5-0 in the sixteenth - if this were a boxing match, surely it would have been stopped there and then. Romijn, Chan, Hoàng and Mudaliar got the goals, and despite their professionalism, it just didn't seem done to continue imposing on such innocent opposition.
Chan wouldn't get his hat-trick then, as he was substituted for the second half by Bernie Egan
- surely something Noubaryan must have wished he had also done for Mudaliar. Hoàng was delighted to be handed the captain's armband by the departing Chan, and Grilled returned to attacking ways - with Bilal Mohammad Harun
making a startling miss.
More pressure from the Birds would eventually get Athletics to break again, and Kalki Parvathaneni
would maneuver very well to get his shot off in a very tight space, for 6-0 in the 58th minute. A bit later, Cyril Künzler
would smash a decent volley towards goal, and although Tu U-Jung made a fair go of it this time, his dive fell just short.
It was then back to stroking it about for Grilled, which would perhaps have appeared at least slightly condescending, had their hosts not been wheezing hard. Athletic gamely refused to bring in substitutions, and wound up basically camping in their own penalty area. As a defensive measure, this parking of the bus wasn't entirely unwise, and referee Derik Kläger was prepared to be understanding, as they called for multiple stoppages, after the slightest of contacts.
The Birds got restless in the final minutes, though, and Vikram Mudaliar
just couldn't resist padding his goal record a little. Apparently, the national scouts had been knocking about, and the Grilled striker didn't want to miss out on leaving an impression - he definitely left one on Shu Yew-Kwong by handily overtaking him despite a generous headstart, and Huang Chia-hoang didn't fare any better, straining his thigh in trying to keep up; Mudaliar scored for Grilled's eighth.
Tragedy then struck for Neeraj Muthyala
, who couldn't get out of the way quickly enough, when Bernie Egan
leapt majestically for an unorthodox roundhouse kick finish. The ball landed in the net, but Egan was left in no position to control his fall, and crashed straight into Muthyala's legs. Even the opposition players gestured for the medics upon spying what had happened to his ankle, as Egan looked mortified. Mudaliar would complete his treble, but declined to celebrate out of respect for his stricken teammate - he did still claim the match ball, however.