Minions Muster Winner
Neither Grilled Birds nor recent Taça de Mocambique champions Minions United FC might have taken this friendly too seriously, but it remained a very watchable victory for the Moçambique hosts. While they might have just gotten relegated from the Moçambola, gaffer Miguel Nuno Azevedo remained a full believer in his wholly-native squad, and on today's evidence, he had good reason to.
Minions United FC were sporting enough to roughly match the Birds in the strength of their starting lineup, which included former internationals Januário Andrade and Virgolino Ribeiro Esteves out wide; both has scored against Red White Anto Maputo in last season's national cup final against Red White Anto Maputo, who they happened to have beaten by the same 2-1 scoreline, in the Taça Challenger Esmeralda de Moçambique a few more seasons back. The scorers then - Emanuel Amado and Simão Barbosa, both also having represented the country - would not however feature today.
Given this wealth of talent, some have considered the Minions as not quite having lived up to their potential; this was a charge that Azevedo never quite accepted, and they would again reject it through action on this occasion. The home whites headed off Grilled's initial advances through excellent organization in their back five, and defence would switch seamlessly to attack, through Virgolino Ribeiro Esteves' break in the 17th minute. Esteves would send longtime partner Andrade clear through on the left, and Andrade's vicious low cross would be scythed home by 37 year-old team senior António Gama.
This was all within the Birds' expectations yet, and they would equalize through another infrequent scorer in Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
, six minutes on. Grilled attempted to play to their first-class core as often as possible, and Gilbert Webb
would lay on a successful assist for Mohd Jafni, after managing to sidestep a succession of challenges. Grilled would then be the more aggressive side for much of the remaining half, but they would pay for it as Andrade again had the run of the left flank, after a botched rush. Experienced forward Cristiano Nunes Conceição called for it, and did his part with a solid header outside Manuel Vadalà
Grilled made a double substitution at half time, as they replaced their centreback pairing of Mohd Jafni and Jérémy Tarin
, with the likely-retiring Hoàng Trung Quá
and Kohei Okuya
. To be very frank, this wasn't much to shout about, and it was only sheer luck that kept Gama from recording a second goal in the 67th minute, after he hefted a rising strike onto the crossbar. The home side had their own close shave a couple of minutes later too, as Bhavya Panigrahi
similarly raked a left-footed scorcher off the woodwork.
The next goal would see a yellow card and two players carted off, in what had to be the highlight of the day. Grilled captain Moey Xin Seng
played to the whistle as he ignored the fans' screams for the game to be paused, after a bloody collision between Radovan Jaška
's knee and Manuel Jerónimo Gomes Domingos' delicate bits just outside the Minions' own area. Moey would force the ball over the line after seemingly riding a defender's challenge, but his left leg would buckle under him, as he rose to celebrate.
It was down to Polish referee Benedykt Wielki to unravel this shambles, which had players from both teams appealing for justice to be served. After a long discussion with both linesmen, his final verdict was: Jaška would be booked for inflicting the injury, but Moey's goal would stand. No-one, it seemed, was quite sure how this worked out, but it was soon clear that no further explanation was forthcoming.
Damas Soares and Dante Tran
, who had been exchanging a longer-than-usual chat on the sidelines as they waited for their numbers to come up, would finally join the game, and the match resumed through a Minions kick-off, with Hoàng now wearing the Grilled captain's armband. The Vietnamese defender's pride in his craft was still evident, but alas, his pace was no more, as he failed to catch Gama making it 3-2 in the 82nd minute.
Despite being just four years younger, the difference between Gama and Hoàng was as night and day, and the Minions veteran would make it a hat-trick with some deceptively-crafty dribbling to open a path. Wielki would then court further discontent from the gallery with a soft penalty award in injury time, given due to Yee Jian Hui
's tumble after what seemed a minor nudge by Bento Catalino. Bhavya Panigrahi
had no trouble slotting it in at the corner, but this wouldn't change the final outcome.