Inaugural São Tomé e Príncipe Ruby Challenger Cup winners Eagles Santana graced The Cooking Pot today in their red-and-black stripes, and were duly pummelled by a strong Birds second XI. This, as it happens, might be considered the sixth incarnation of the Eagles, after previous ventures by German progenitors Eagles O-Town in Dubai, Guatemala, Ukraine, Latvia and Slovakia had all wrapped up. None of them had achieved the national-level glory that Eagles Santana had managed on their first attempt, however, which gave hope that it might be different this time.
Native head coach Leal Machado had been going after value-for-money veterans in search of instant returns, with goalkeeper Pino Scaramuzzi, striker Walter Rupp and playmaker Kennedy Bagnall - all 35 years of age - signed just this month. None of them would feature today, however, with German midfield organizer Hanns Ulrich captaining the Santana side as perhaps their most important player here. Other than Ulrich, their brightest sparks on paper at least would have to be fullbacks Jonathan Grimault and Rachamim Azulay, both fiendishly experienced, if a little less mobile than in their absolute prime.
The visitors went at Grilled without fear, and spent all of five minutes to put the first goal past Eren Serpin
. Right winger Delfim Timóteo found plenty of space with Kalki Parvathaneni
not properly executing his defensive duties, and the Birds' backline was of little help either, when Timóteo elected to float a cross from the halfway line. Jaime Bota understood his teammate's intentions properly, and reached the ball right before Serpin, who should really have been stationed further out.
It was a goal that didn't reflect well on Grilled's communication at all, but Eagles Santana would not have many more opportunities to tinker. Grilled were hogging the ball now, with Chan Ze Han
responsible for setting up most of their attacks. One of these would be nicely converted by Vikram Mudaliar
in the 14th minute, before the Indian national teamer received an official warning for holding Ulrich back in the 23rd.
Chan's shooting on the day was hardly on the level of his distribution, and the young Birds favourite would send several otherwise promising efforts into the stands, throughout the first half. Yuta Nakakita
in contrast scored on his only try - a tremendous volley - in the 33rd minute. As for Jaime Bota, he would follow Mudaliar into the referee's books for cheekily holding up a free-kick, as Grilled took a 2-1 lead into the interval.
It was just as well for Eagles Santana, who had shown signs of losing their coherency towards the end of the half; It was Grilled that made the substitutions, however, with Krystian Rykowski
and Bilal Mohammad Harun
replacing Eren Serpin
and Bhavya Panigrahi
. Panigrahi's departure meant that Mudaliar was dealt the rare responsibility of taking Grilled's free kicks, and he made the most out of his first delivery, nearly finding José Luiz Velho
's sneaky dash from the opposite flank.
Alas, that move didn't end well for Velho at all, and the Brazilian wound up lying flat on the grass clutching his right thigh, after his final stretch didn't exactly reach far enough. The visitors were not about to pass up a superb counterattacking opportunity, but failed to capitalize with Ulrich putting the finish high. Velho would only then receive medical attention, which ended with him being taken off for Chirag Thevar
Eagles Santana's lines would start to unravel again with Grilled having taken their measure, and Moey Xin Seng
would lash a goal cleanly between Bruno Pinaud's legs in the 69th minute, before following that up with an ambitious outside-the-box rocket several minutes later. That last seemed to be going over, but Pinaud was taking no chances, and helped it on its way with his fingertips.
Pinaud wouldn't be able to stop Grilled's next strikes on target, however, as Mudaliar sped through first, with Chan Ze Han
flummoxing Rachamim Azulay with a flamboyant spin next for 5-1. Azulay had actually been one of Santana's best performers, having balanced his duties more than adequately, but this could have led to his exhaustion by this late stage of the match.