Grilled Birds would regain their claim to having played in all Hattrick territories - if briefly, given the recent announcement on the upcoming of five new leagues - with today's 4-1 victory at Botswanan third division hosts The young Zebras. Big things are expected of Azul Granes C.F.'s latest subsidiary, with their Tanzanian venture *Azul Granes C.F.* already back in the country's Premier League. Polish head coach Piotr Kluczewski has yet to delve into the transfer market, that said, as he has placed his faith in his homegrown crop thus far.
This has allowed some bona-fide stars to emerge, the two biggest of which must be midfielders Quintisha Ratanang and Lemponye Kopi. The 23 year-old Ratanang is the club's unchallenged enforcer, while the organization has been left to the eminently-likeable Kopi, who at just 21 years of age has exuded a maturity and positional soundness far beyond his peers. Letsego Mophuting, a solid playmaker himself, makes up the third piece in a fine midfield, which has powered them to a third-placed finish in their maiden season.
Still, it took the Birds just two minutes to go ahead. All of Zebras' burgeoning potential would be left wanting against Bhavya Panigrahi
's slide-rule fifty-yarder out of defence, and once Mophuting missed the interception, it was all but over. Kalki Parvathaneni
and Kalle ter Berg
were left bearing down on an isolated Tebogo Rasuping, and Kalki had no qualms about laying it on to his Dutch comrade, after tempting the sweeper to himself.
Ter Berg would then be involved in a rather nasty incident in the fifth minute, in which he mowed Mookodi Maposa over, for which he was booked; Maposa took it quite well, all considered, and the free-kick would be sent long to Ofentse Rahube, who however got stuck on Panigrahi. There would be a relatively long and slow stretch following that, at least up until another yellow - this time for Panigrahi - woke the game up again, and Mateja Jeftić
buried a free-kick into the top corner against Dingane Zoyiswa.
It would then be Rahube's moment to shine, though much of the preparatory work had been done by Gobonyeone Moloi, who eluded Heng Dong Chu
in a tussle down their right. The rain was really starting to pour now, but that didn't dampen Rahube's hunger a whet, as the veteran was first to the inbound pass. He hardly looked before unleashing a half-volley, which still wound up homing in at Massoud Dob
's far post, leaving the properly-positioned goalkeeper stranded.
That raised Zebras' spirits plenty, and they would be the more active team for the rest of the half, and for quite awhile after that. Granted, Grilled's players were feeling the effects of a hard campaign, but this shouldn't take anything away from the home side's midfield, who often matched their S-League winning counterparts step for step. Simisani Phiri's thoughtful ball for Mookodi Maposa would be redirected off the woodwork in the 64th minute, while Chu Xin Lee
's shot stemming from the recovery would be wide.
Zebras' brave defiance would be shut down five minutes on, however, as Bernie Egan
bent a fine volley around Zoyiswa, with Wu Jinglong
getting in his customary assist. The bunch at Zebra Park were then treated to the rare sight of a classic counterattack by the Birds, following a comfortable save by Dob on Simisani Phiri, and the ensuing free-kick would be taken short, then shifted to the back post, for Moey Xin Seng
to make it four.
came on for a rather uneventful last ten minutes, that ended with Rahube holding it up on the right side, waiting for support that didn't arrive on time.