Grilled Birds landed in Venice to take on Division Three club Fox kickers, who were several seasons removed from back-to-back division titles in II.2, though they didn't quite manage to take the final step up to the Serie A. While arguably on a slight decline since those heady days, perhaps best represented by the departure of iconic custodian Alessandro Leonarduzzi, the Kickers remained tough customers, as Grilled found out to their detriment tonight.
The commentators had barely done reading the lineups, in fact, when the hosts got themselves ahead. In the Birds' defence, Hoàng Trung Quá
and Jérémy Tarin
were past their best, but then they should probably have collected enough past wisdom to not try and pull mindgames on the likes of Michael Prankerhelm; the veteran striker ignored their signalling for a non-existent whistle, and placed it past an unamused Krystian Rykowski
in just the second minute.
It was just as well that this was merely a friendly, and even then, Hovaness Noubaryan
was looking distinctly pissed on the sidelines. On went the match, and it soon became clear that Prokop Mottl
was the weak link in an otherwise formidable Grilled midfield. Fox kickers only had to get it to their forwards to score, or so it seemed, until defensive mid Claudio Fabián Vargas went it himself with a strike from outside the box in the 10th minute. Rykowski had only himself to blame thence, as he found himself hopelessly out of position.
The defensive slaughter continued as the Birds couldn't capitalize on their own chances at the other end, with the Kickers having figured them out. A merciless double press on Mottl led by Virgílio Serafim would result in another turnover in the 26th, which became their third goal. Iraqi fullback Yasen Malik was the scorer then, as he provided the extra man coming through the middle, as Hoàng tried to get Wittmaack sorted out.
Kickers gaffer Helmut Buchauer pulled Manolo Higueras for Pedro Henrique Villas Boas upon witnessing this unlikely development, as the Birds found themselves continually frustrated by competent if not especially exceptional defending at the other end. This is not to take anything away from Belgian veteran Terry Delanoy, who excelled with his limited resources. On paper, Islom Davlatov
and Kalki Parvathaneni
should have had him for the taking, but Delanoy made sure to protect his vulnerabilities assiduously.
Grilled would end up having to rely on a penalty to get on the scoresheet, and the crowd were good sports about Kalki's possible simulation in the 58th minute, possibly having come to expect the same of their forwards. Jérémy Tarin
would take his time during the run-up, which put substitute goalie Pedro Henrique Villas Boas off sufficiently, to dive too early.
Fox kickers were unfazed, and Buchauer took the opportunity for some further realignment, going for a double substitution: Renzo van Tol and Prankerhelm came off, for Mike Schaumburger and Apostolis Manouselis. The latter would give Tarin quite a bit of trouble, for which Tarin would be booked in the 68th minute. This contributed to his fatal hesitance towards Vargas five minutes later, and the Costa Rican all but jumped over him to knock ex-American U-20 international Aaron Sosbe's cross past a befuddled Rykowski.
There would at least be a second consolation for the Birds, as they finally found themselves after the ninety minutes had passed. Islom Davlatov
dummied in what was perhaps his most impactful act for the day, and Chu Xin Lee
ran on to squeeze it between Higueras and his near post, from a tight angle.