Grilled Birds have hosted all 134 recognized Hattrick nations, with Vernon City of Curaçao accepting a friendly at The Cooking Pot. The third division club might have been outscored by five goals to one, but it was smiles all around as the teams soaked in the festive atmosphere, at the tail-end of a long season.
Founded by elements from Newcastle-based English club Croft Town, Vernon City - originally known as Fortuna Westpunkt - had won and been promoted from the IV.44 league, in their first season. They have found it more challenging to balance giving time to their young defenders with achieving results in Division Three, however, and look set to finish behind Real Jungle Boogie and Petit Curaçao 5; still a respectable achievement, mind.
The visitors went for overloading the right side, with Eugene Janga and 39 year-old Stephan Eglhofer figuring that Kalki Parvathaneni
would be easier to get by, compared to a dedicated defender in Bhavya Panigrahi
on the other flank. It was not altogether clear whether that worked, as Grilled's rather superior midfield sent Bernie Egan
clear in the fifth minute. Faced with an onrushing Eugene Canword, Egan struck immediately, only to rock the crossbar.
Grilled weren't used to having only one fellow up top in a 4-5-1 actually, and Prokop Mottl
would often find space hard to come by; support would arrive from midfield, as Kalki's ingrained habit of keeping an eye out for angles served him well in the 28th minute. Chan Ze Han
was a decent option then, but the Number 37 cut out the middleman, by scooping it cleanly over Canword with a cultured right foot.
If Hergen Eisold had intended for his defenders to come under fire, he certainly succeeded; trainee Hartwig Gerwers could not have faced many players of the quality of Singapore international Vikram Mudaliar
, and his underestimation of Mudaliar's reaction speed proved fatal - Mudaliar switched the ball across his body in a flash, and cut in right behind Gerwers for an easy one-on-one.
Egan would be replaced by Chu Xin Lee
for the second half, and Vernon City would be at their best for the first fifteen minutes or so. Much hustling and doubling up severely reduced Grilled's potential openings, and their relatively empty left side even became a lure of sorts. There was certainly no-one keeping an eye on Stephan Eglhofer as Vernon City broke forward 63 minutes in, and Eren Serpin
allowed the shot to wriggle out of his gloves for 2-1.
The brave visitors would then be laid-out by a knockout one-two blow, with Mottl first rising highest to a delightfully-flighted cross from Panigrahi. It appeared to come off his shoulder, but the odd contact did its job in throwing Canword - who had been expecting a stronger header to the side - off. Mudaliar then contributed to Gerwers' tuition once more, nearly causing the lad to trip over his own feet with his mesmerizing footwork, before scoring his second.
Mottl would be brought down heavily in the box by Adam Jakiel with ten minutes to go, very coincidentally more or less when his number came up for a substitution with José Luiz Velho
. There was no nonsense from Bhavya Panigrahi
, who hit the penalty hard into the bottom right; Panigrahi might have finished with another off Chan Ze Han
's excellent pass, but fired narrowly over then.