The Birds took Nigerian III.9 leaders Redneck Experience to penalties in today's extended home friendly, as the recent Consolation Cup champions made it to full time level, with some help from Grilled captain for the day Atang Mangoye
. The Botswana frontman would discover the perils of playing close to his own net, as he inadvertently redirected a cross past his own goalkeeper.
In honesty, nobody could be expecting champagne football here at The Cooking Pot, as Grilled fielded a squad wholly made up of reserves and youngsters, lead by Radovan Jaška
and Mangoye up front. Against this, the Rednecks brought a collection of their own second-stringers, save perhaps 21 year-old Uruguayan defender Alexis Ruiz, an S$8.7 million star signing from Atletico Smalvino. Ruiz is perhaps most remembered for his red card in their Consolation Cup final win versus the Nigerian Black Panthers, although they swept 8-0 nonetheless. Neither of their hat-trick heroes of the day - Tony Useni and Maksymilian Warzocha - would feature in Singapore, however.
It was soon game on, and the Birds would waste no time in starting the conversation, as they moved forcefully against the visitors' deep-lying 5-4-1. Grilled's central midfield trio had ample experience interacting in the juniors, and Lim, Hwang and Khairul would spend quite some time cycling the ball between themselves, with a heartening facility. This would turn out to result in an early goal, when Hwang found himself with time and space on the right edge of the six-yard box. He went hard and high towards the near top corner, leaving 18 year-old American custodian Drew Glushko no chance.
So far, so good, but the Rednecks were not entirely toothless, and they created for veteran lone striker Fred Adeleke right from the restart. Unfortunately for Adeleke, Chirag Thevar
read the side to which he would turn correct as the Birds' last man. That would actually be Adeleke's best chance of the entire match, as he found himself hopelessly shackled otherwise, and not all due to his own fault. It was back to defending for the visitors, then, and Malenge Anyanwu would be booked for some pretty blatant shirt-pulling on Radovan Jaška
, though with nothing coming from the free-kick.
If the Birds didn't look especially coordinated going forward, they did at least appear quite secure in defence given their opponents' conservatism - but for one tiny slip-up in the 21st minute, beginning near the half-way line. Olaniyi Maga got a handle on it, and hit a great searching ball deep into the Birds' box, headed for the onrushing Christopher Soludo. Atang Mangoye
, who had dropped back to help out, swung his left leg out to clear, but only managed to scuff it past a disbelieving Cameron Law
There was nothing to be done about that, and it would be up to Grilled to regain the lead, with Mangoye redoubling his efforts. Unfortunately, the Rednecks' five at the back would now hold rather comfortably, with Adeleke and Mike Onome getting the next two half-chances. Worse, Mohsen El Khateeb
would pull his left hamstring trying to block what would turn out to be a wonderfully-overhit lob by Adeleke in the 36th minute, and the 18 year-old would have to be replaced by José Luiz Velho
Chia Kwang Tse
entered for Lim An Keng
for the second half as usual, with Velho making some positive long runs from way behind, but it was again Fred Adeleke to ask the questions, as he got on the end of a good cross in the 64th minute. Chia then overdribbled it out of bounds as Mangoye entrusted the captain's armband to Velho with twenty minutes of regular time remaining, but this was about it for the first ninety minutes.
Grilled's biggest consolation would be the Adeleke would prove less than reliable from the penalty spot, as he tried his luck with a gimmick effort straight down the middle in the 93rd minute, but it was far too weak to work out. Considering this, it was perhaps to be expected that he would count himself out of the concluding shootout, which would eventually be won by Soludo after only Mike Onome and Chia Kwang Tse
had scored in the first nine takes.