Partizans Put Down
Ethiopian II.2 side Partizans of Liberty, an affiliate of French club FC St Georges, were hosted at The Cooking Pot by Grilled Birds today, but the otherwise excellent hospitality would not extend to the pitch, where they were demolished 7-1 in front of a relatively large friendly attendance of some 4600. Chinese referee Zhang Kunjiang would attract some grumbling from the visitors at seemingly favouring the Birds in his calls, leading to a set-piece treble by Bhavya Panigrahi
In just their second full season, the Partizans had gained something of a reputation for savvy transfer dealings by Austrian gaffer Florian Telisselis, who presided over a gross volume of over S$60 million in that short timespan; this included the S$8.8 million sale of Angolan U-20 striker Valério Garcia Lopes to Sweden's AIK 2017 just last month, and the S$3.8 million reinforcement of 28 year-old Italian fullback Antonio Salvatore, coming after that. All considered, Telisselis has maintained a good balance of youth and experience, though the likely retirement of Bahraini midfielder mainstay Fouad Al Sawaidi to injury must still have had an impact.
This would be reflected in their starting lineup against Grilled, which blended a front three composed of homegrown teenagers, a 20 year-old Turkish custodian in Şükür Uysal, and two veteran Finnish midfielders, Terno Montonen and Tapani Pappila. If they were looking for counterattacks, however, there would be few if any effective overlaps arising from fullbacks Dagim Delsho and Girma Sahle, the former whom might be forgiven since he's a goalkeeper by trade.
Delsho wasn't helped by having to contend with Wu Jinglong
pulling wide, and it would quickly be clear that this game was the Birds' to let slip. Partizans were not about to let it be easy, and they had the numbers at the back to stall, which had Wu take matters into his own hand. He appeared to run straight for Yosuke Sasaki in the 16th minute, took the tumble for the inevitable contact, and was awarded the penalty.
slotted it away after Uysal had committed, and with the first goal accounted for, it got quite a bit easier for Grilled here. Four minutes later, Chan Ze Han
would profit from Neeraj Muthyala
's delightful cross, with Bilal Mohammad Harun
pitching in with his favourite blast from the centre, for 3-0 by the 30th minute. A flurry of Grilled attacks then produced some near misses, a booking for Aschalew Tola, and finally a second goal by Chan in the 39th.
There would be a double substitution to begin the second half, with Louis Vara
and Mohd Jafni Abdul Majid
coming on in goal and defence respectively. The latter would take barely eight minutes to get on the scoresheet, as the Birds continued concentrating their pushes down the middle, and Muthyala clipped a warning over the bar. Mohd Jafni, heeding the lesson, would keep it on the ground for his attempt.
It was Partizans' turn to freshen their lineup, as they replaced their Finnish midfielders with the even-older pair of Arkadiusz Budak and Pepe Martínez. That wouldn't quite help their cause, with Zhang giving Grilled a second penalty in between the changes, for a nearly-imperceptible handball by Seyoum Melkie from Wu's shot. Even some of the Birds' players seemed genuinely surprised at the gift, but Panigrahi wasn't about to complain, and picked the opposite side of goal this time.
Panigrahi's hat-trick would then come, and if the foul was yet again somewhat soft, he would at least have to work more for it, and did so with a brilliant curler from over twenty yards. The crowd couldn't begrudge Girma Sahle for grabbing a consolation from a last-minute corner, to which Gilbert Webb
wrangled a top-drawer save from Şükür Uysal in time added on.