Manchester Eagles Downed
Grilled Birds were easily on top in this clash of the avians, as they dispatched Ang Mo Kio III.16 strivers Manchester United Eagles, whom had arguably been fortunate to progress of a dazzling Momen Ragy finish against Division Two side Real Batigol in the previous round. There was a price to be paid, however, and it would be Neeraj Muthyala
's probable absence for the several weeks.
It had begun in rather happier fashion for the 33 year-old team elder, at the aptly-named Big Nest Arena Singapore; Eagles head coach Tyler Yu was upfront about his expectations from this contest - that is to say, not very much - although he pointed to the fine recent form of Belgian midfield pivot Miguel Vandenabbeele as a possible saving grace. That turned out not to matter so much, as Muthyala opened in the eighth minute off some clockwork-like passing from Grilled's forwards, and Vandenabbeele wasn't quite the same after having the wind knocked out of him in a straight-up collision with Heng Dong Chu
in the 17th minute.
Heng, by the way, had been cast as an inside-to-outside playmaker once more, but it wasn't as if Eagles didn't have enough to deal with as it was. The Birds would go on to add four goals in a four-minute stretch beginning in the 22nd, the first two of which were contributed by the ever-active Cyril Künzler
. Starting in the right wing position that he had made his over the years, Künzler would sneak in on the blind side of Tan Woon Chun for his first goal, before getting a free-kick up over the wall, and then sharply down, to befuddle Li Heng Yao.
Li's nightmare had just begun, as the goalkeeper's next few involvements would all be picking the ball out of his own net. The Eagles couldn't catch a break, not with Grilled now fully switched on, and the pure pace of Vikram Mudaliar
would get him past Hwang Lee Kian for 4-0, despite the centreback practising the defensive basics. They were simply being swamped now, and Heng would put in a searching cross that Bernie Egan
nodded home, to round up the half's tally.
All the Eagles would have to show was a good sequence after Egan's strike, that began with a sudden break forward by Vandenabbeele, and then a smooth transfer of the ball to the extra man they had created on the left. Chang Kok Xin sized his options up, and squared it crisply to Khairul Ikmal Ridwan, which was probably the best available choice. It would surely have been a memorable fiftieth career goal for Khairul had it gone in, but one first has to get those on target!
Grilled would come out at a stroll for the next period, with Manchester United Eagles the more interested in trying for a souvenir, but it was the same story once things settled; again armed with two-third of the possession - most of it in the Eagles' half besides - the Birds would have to break through sooner or later. It wouldn't be too long, with Egan lurking as Rodrigo Ricardo Nahasapemapetilion missed his sliding interception on Bilal Mohammad Harun
's temptingly-flighted pass on the hour.
was hardly idle throughout all this, and he very nearly joined Künzler and Egan in bagging a brace, as he powered a stunner towards the far post some six minutes later. Li Heng Yao's day got a little brighter, as he flew across to deflect that out and behind. Muthyala's time wouldn't last much longer, sadly, as he became the victim of Nahasapemapetilion's atrocious high tackle in the 78th minute, that visibly buckled his left knee. The Grilled bench and support were justifiably furious, and French referee Bruno Philippe allowing the Argentine to stay on didn't sate their anger much if at all.
That had Chu Xin Lee
come on as Grilled's second sub, after Yuta Nakakita
had replaced Panigrahi as planned slightly earlier on. Künzler kept on trucking, and nearly recorded a ninth career hat-trick with a big curler coming in from the right side, only for Hwang Lee Kian to get in the way. Chu wouldn't waste his appearance, as he capped the game with a neat finish in the 84th minute, after a short stoppage for Khairul Ikmal Ridwan to have his arm looked at after using it to break a fall.