World of Hert
Belgian sixth division hosts Hertals City, owner of an impressive twenty league trophies, tested the visiting Birds to their limits, before the latter were able to pull away in extra time.
While Hertals will probably not be able to add to their haul this season, with -The end is near! running away with the VI.788 title, they have indulged themselves in running a busy friendly schedule, splitting their last doubleheader against Macedonia's Göztepe İzmir. Elder one-club-man Harry Hayen would lead them out against the Birds today, who made the adventurous choice of Hoàng Trung Quá
in the unfamiliar position of holding midfielder.
The hosts would operate on the defensive, but this was sufficient to be effective on a Grilled team that were honestly pretty poor in defence. This was evident some time after Iman Eshrafi
grafted to the opener after six minutes, as Jérémy Tarin
completely lost former Icelandic U-20 international Benjamín Skuggason, after Joël Temmerman drifted to the outside. Though, to be fair, Kalki Parvathaneni
should have picked up on that move.
Hertals went one better the very next minute, after the Birds lost possession on a senseless hoof deep into enemy territory. The home team advanced with moving alacrity, and after a few risky passes came off, the debuting Geoffrey Lucas found himself scooting straight through Grilled's flat defence to score. The teenager definitely enjoyed that, going by how he gleefully flung himself into the mud in celebration.
The goals were flowing thick and fast, despite the field being of similar viscosity after unseasonal rainfall. The ever-competitive Moey Xin Seng
was clearly treating the game very seriously indeed, as always, and he nearly burst Robbie De Groote's net with a thundering drive in the 18th. Hertals responded promptly, as Portuguese fullback Daniel Marques restored their lead, with Skuggason indefatigable down the right.
Grilled would begin to leverage their superior ball retention as the match took shape, however, and Moey would find himself bagging a second one in the 29th minute, as he bullied his way in within shooting range against a discomfited Koka Tamliani. Jérémy Tarin
, who definitely hadn't distinguished himself at the back, then chipped in with a technically-outstanding lob in mid-stride, but missed by inches.
The heavy turf sapped the players' vitality fairly equally, and by this time, the pace had slowed noticeably from the cracking first twenty minutes. Skuggason was one of the few who tried to keep going at full blast, but even his feet were noticeably getting heavier as they soaked up the moisture.
Hertals City made a planned substitution during half-time, switching goalie Robbie De Groote for Fab Krebbs - in De Groote's defence, none of the goals he conceded was exactly his fault, and he had actually come respectably close to getting a hand on Moey's strikes.
Krebbs wasn't half bad either, as he smothered a couple of decent efforts from Chan Ze Han
. Grilled were seriously piling on, though, and Chilean sweeper José Marcelo Godoy would be turned by Eshrafi's sweet shuffle across for Kalki Parvathaneni
in the 58th minute. Parvathaneni barely kept his footing after planting his support leg in an especially soft spot, but stayed up long enough to prod it in.
That would be the last time Parvathaneni would get the better of Krebbs, however, as the Hertals custodian held the Indian sign over him from then on. Despite getting in position for three clear-cut chances within six minutes from the 72nd on, Kalki just couldn't put it past Krebbs, who earned the adulation of the spectators with some quite miraculous saves.
It got even better for the hosts on that last one, as they managed to break out on the wing for the first time in a long while. Skuggason had been spent, and with good justification, but he managed to crank out one more lung-bursting fifty-yard dash down the line, before getting it to Joël Temmerman. Temmerman considered going it by himself, but wound up leaving it smartly for Jean-Éric Foket, who gave his side an unlikely equaliser.
The cameras cut over to Luis Alcántara throwing his hands up in the dugout, but the match - scheduled to run under Cup rules - had to go on. Thus, Tian Yonghang
and José Luiz Velho
were pencilled in to take over from Hoàng and Tran respectively, as the Birds made to settle in for the long haul.
Fortunately, being constantly on the defensive had cost Hertals even more than it had Grilled, and there was a sense that the hosts were just hanging on by this point. They would come out for extra time looking refreshed, but this would fade quickly; several minutes in, it was evident that they were playing for penalties, but Chu Xin Lee
gave them a mountain to climb by scoring from a quick free-kick taken after José Marcelo Godoy's attempted delay on losing the ball deep in his own half.
Chu would have to retire with a bandaged calf, after eating a sloppy charge from Giorgio Badini, but it was all going Grilled's way by then. Prokop Mottl
would confirm victory with a calm finish five minutes from the end, and Chan Ze Han
would top it off with a good header, as an exhausted Hertals failed to spring their offside properly due to Daniel Marques playing Chan on over the far side.