Record goalkeeper signing Jānis Salmiņš
would take a debut clean sheet home, though in truth he would have precious little to do, against Ivory Coast hosts Sam's Pachyderms. The H.I. IV.23 club would concentrate on keeping the Birds out in this friendly, an objective that they actually met to a large extent.
An affiliate of former Ivorian national cupwinners loucogg team, the Pachyderms are becoming a force in their own right, with a habitually-filled 50000-seater stadium, and the commitment of 29 year-old national wing star Yedes Sanogo, who has been one of the Elephants' most-exciting draws. Fellow native international Alexandre Desjardins would balance Sanago out on the right today, with former Finnish U-20 stopper Harri Rajamäki starting in midfield. On individual reputation alone, the Pachyderms certainly had no reason to be cowed.
Taiwanese head coach Chen Sifang electing to field a mishmash of trainees and reserve defenders ensured that this team couldn't be truly competitive, however, not against what was essentially a first-team selection for the Birds. The only slight eyebrow-raiser was Mateja Jeftić
being tried out in defensive midfield, but that wasn't that at all out there, for a player of the Dutchman's capabilities.
The result was largely predictable, as Grilled threw themselves upon the home team's unambitious 5-4-1 with great gusto. Pachyderms defended themselves stoutly, if not with exceptional flair, as their five at the back moved up and down together most of the time. Only leftback Samba Vasco showed any inclinations at helping the attack out, and he was almost penalized for it in the 16th minute, as Moey Xin Seng
took advantage on one of his advances; his last touch was slightly heavy, however, and veteran custodian Sami Kalou got there first.
It was getting a bit dull, when Chan Ze Han
made the breakthrough to force more liveliness from the hosts. His 22nd minute shot would flash right through Alban Serigba's block, which gave Kalou little time to react. Bilal Mohammad Harun
took that as license to shoot the next time he was marginally within range, which was perhaps not too respectful of Kalou's abilities - and indeed, the goalkeeper saved it without any trouble.
Sam's Pachyderms were not without their own barbs, especially whenever they got the ball out to their stars on the wings, and Bhavya Panigrahi
would be booked for downing Desjardins in the 27th minute. The free-kick was wasted, unfortunately for Pachyderms, and Sanogo got no sympathy from referee Nello Mattesini when he went flying following slight contact by Gilbert Webb
, several minutes on.
Chen had seen enough, and moved to a 5-2-3, with Rajamäki and Silva Dao joining a very-isolated Mamadou Kandji up top. This brought with it a change to direct long passes, which however wasn't exactly what the Pachyderms excelled at. In fact, they probably looked more dangerous when they looked to build it up through Desjardins or Sanogo instead.
Grilled kept to their principles all this while, and were rewarded with a second goal in the 54th minute, as Kalki Parvathaneni
seized upon a trapped defender. The Pachyderms should really have cleared their lines as early as possible then, a rule which they would adopt with much greater frequency for the remainder of the match.
, Grilled's Trophy of Legends top performer, would try to get another streak going in the 75th minute, but he would be matched stride for stride by a dogged Samba Vasco, all the way. The final seven minutes saw Mateja Jeftić
swing a free-kick inches wide, and Chan Ze Han
forcing Kalou into a magnificent reflex save.