Having played a Congolese club less than a month ago in FC Congo Vivaise, the Birds would fish about for a home match with another Linafoot team, and Katanga Pal i Gol answered the call. It would in the end be a relatively leisurely effort all around, with the visitors currently mired in their own relegation struggle.
As such, Katanga's head coach Sepp Embacher would select his usual collection of veteran reserves, and their starting forward duo of Yann Pröll and Khalil Mansour Ramahy would both be north of thirty-five, to begin with. Dutch midfielder Ruben Schuurs, who will be 37 next, was entrusted with shoring up the midfield, and it was therefore somewhat strange that team captain Cédrick Kefeke was only 24 years old.
The Birds could thus perhaps be accused of not being suitably sporting, from how they fielded a regular midfield core, with Kalle ter Berg
included after being ruled out for Sunday through suspension. Salah Kamel
would return after his own third yellow of the season, and Teo Chuan Yong
would be given the honour of bearing the captain's armband provisionally. Grilled were rather less intimidating elsewhere, with them able to put out a much better front three than Leonard Nguyen
, Prokop Mottl
and Yee Jian Hui
, had they wanted to.
All considered, the comparatively-weak forward line wouldn't matter much, from how the Birds handily overpowered their opponents in the middle. For all of Schuurs' and former Maltese U-20 star Horace Manduca's prior accomplishments, they were but two against Grilled's three in their prime, and Leonard Nguyen
would make himself especially available. Nguyen's technical limitations prevented him from scoring earlier than he did, but he came good once he got on the end of Mottl's help-on from a near-post corner delivery.
Ter Berg would be replaced by Moey Xin Seng
a couple of minutes later in the 30th, in a seemingly pre-arranged substitution, likely as to allow Moey to get some additional minutes in. The club captain retained no signs of the shoulder injury that had him come off early on Sunday, and he would play an instrumental part in the build-up, that saw Radovan Jaška
eventually put it between Zito De Doncker's legs for 2-0. Moey would prove far less impressive when his own turn came, sadly, as he sent a wild swipe into the atmosphere.
Katanga seemed to be reeling badly as the first half entered its final minutes, but this would ironically birth their best reply of the entire game. Their defence looked to have messed up badly in the 40th minute, with Awilo Ngeleka's abandonment of his post giving Chirag Thevar
an unblocked route at De Doncker, but the strike was unexceptional when it came. An opportunistic counter won a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Manduca stepped up to sling one of his specials past Louis Vara
There was still time for Cédrick Kefeke to get booked for illegally holding up Mottl's attempted quick restart, but Katanga did make it to the break just a single goal down, which was a great bargain given how they had been manhandled for most of the half. Both sides would make a change at the restart, as youngster Martin Mbope entered for his senior Jean-René Tosenge, for the visitors. On Grilled's end, Leonard Nguyen
- who had not contributed all too much, other than his goal - was off, and Chu Xin Lee
If Katanga were not coping well before, it was only getting harder for them, and the only saving grace was perhaps that the Birds weren't going all out. There would be a good chance for Grilled very early in, when Yee Jian Hui
stationed himself out wide to bend a cross in around Ngongo Djela, only for Kefeke to get there just ahead of Teo Chuan Yong
. Radovan Jaška
then went for a volley in the 56th minute, but put it about a yard too high.
Embacher, encouraged by the resistance that his team was putting up thus far, would relieve his overworked midfielders, with Łukasz Chrustek and Jonathan Featherstonehaugh coming in for a total overhaul. The introduction of new energy was countered by a corresponding drop in fluidity, however, and Yee would again shave it close, with a hopeful chip passing just over the crossbar.
Grilled's third and final substitution would see Yuta Nakakita
enter for Chirag Thevar
in defence, right before they got their third goal. Salah Kamel
, looking as fresh as he had when he first strode on the pitch, was entirely alert to Chu Xin Lee
's intentions, as Chu pushed it up centrally. The transfer of the ball was impeccably effectuated, and De Doncker could get nowhere close to Kamel's finish.
Katanga retained enough of their initial good spirits to shake it up somewhat going into the last ten minutes, with Martin Mbope trying his hand in goal, with De Doncker moving up as sweeper. Interesting, that actually worked pretty well, with the Belgian erstwhile-goalkeeper getting in more than a couple of excellent tackles on Grilled's strikers.