Taras Stands Out
Reigning Estonian Meistriliiga champions Kollane Apelsin hammered Grilled Birds 7-2 in a battle of the reserves today, with hometown utility man Taras Lopatinskiy having a day to remember. While Kollane have not had it easy in the league this season, and moreover paraded only a handful of their stars, they were comfortably more than a match for the Birds' motley band that made it down West.
Grilled's teamsheet was notable shorn of almost everyone who would be expected to feature against Shining Lights in the weekend's blockbuster, save perhaps Low Aik Jia
- who thus could not have been too overjoyed at the implications. Clark Won
and Gene Filippone
, who trotted out at midfield, might yet harbour faint hopes of a surprise selection, but the remainder who started were under no illusions of taking part in perhaps' Grilled's most significant match of their history.
It was thus no great shakes when the well-travelled Rigobert Kõiv found the Birds' defence paper-thin, and Dan Seng
could hardly be blamed for having to take him down in the tenth minute, after being sold out by his backline. Neidhard Bajer stroked home the penalty, and save for a brief stab made by Leong Wan Kang
, it was all Kollane here. Amazingly, the Birds survived conceding another until the half-hour mark, when Kõiv swerved mesmerisingly past the unconvincing Remco van der Ban
This did not spark any additional resistance from Grilled, and in the next four minutes, the home team would be four up. Veteran Ville Sõber struck true after a majestic sweep down the middle, and the otherwise-unsung Taras Lopatinskiy displayed a deft touch with his right foot, to carve a goal out of a half-chance. Clark Won
tried, but all the serious-minded midfielder got for his troubles was a yellow card, for an ill-advised hack at a running Tanel Saar.
The second half saw a breath of fresh air for the Birds, as newcomer Leonard Nguyen
beamed brightly, coming on for a far more world-weary Pompeo Bellamoli
. The teenager's Number 36 jersey was markedly brighter and sharper than the norm, an indication that he - or a family member - had put quite a bit of importance on his professional debut.
Nguyen would struggle to impact the game, though, but he could be forgiven for being overawed, having being matched against Taavi Tõnuri, capped forty times for the Estonian national team. The Grilled coaches must have seen it as an accomplishment if Nguyen had managed to slow Tõnuri, and he could not be faulted for lack of effort. The Birds as a whole remained a step behind, and fell to a Gerardo Tejada drive from the right side in the 65th minute.
The hosts seemed to relax a little after that, and Grilled latched onto their hospitality eagerly. Remco van der Ban
arched awkwardly to nod in a rare cross from Low Aik Jia
in the 79th minute, and after Tõnuri uncharacteristically fell prey to overexcited finishing on Hilal Bakhtiar
's elementary error, Canadian goalie Gao Ruiyuan would suffer another goal, with workhorse Leong Wan Kang
also profiting from another of Low's sudden rushes - an advertisement for himself, if anything.
Kollane would yet close the game out with a five-goal margin, after Lopatinskiy completed a very late hat-trick, but then the Birds were more or less simply interested in getting the ball out, for Rinor Isufi
to have a nice walkabout, by then.