Bagode By Two
In ousting Swiss sixth division leaders Bagode, Grilled Birds booked their passage to the knockout stages of the Mönninghof Cup. Bagode had lost just one in eight competitive matches this term, in the Switzerland Cup to a Pio Galber-powered Partizan Bern, and they would relive the experience against a buzzed Birds.
Bagode's ever-flexible Hungarian head coach Imre Kánya went for the 5-3-2 counter against the Birds, which they had often struggled with. Former Romanian U-20 international George Vornicu would be their critical pivot, with the 37 year-old tasked with single-handedly breaking down attacks in midfield. Upon closer consideration, that was probably an unrealistic assignment.
The blackshirts' defiance lasted all of four minutes, as they found that sitting deep was no protection against accurate short passing. Encouraged by Bagode's propensity to stand off, Grilled made good ground down the left with Florus Romijn
winning a duel of elbows with Felix Krymskiy, and his waist-high delivery was met by a stiff Neeraj Muthyala
diving header for the first goal.
That wasn't enough to convince Bagode that their approach was going nowhere, and the dynamism of Grilled's wingers would again plague their opponents. Cyril Künzler
was exceptional in the early going, and after setting it for Chan Ze Han
on a plate with his wonderful outswinger in the eleventh minute, the Pole would draw Greek centreback Nikolaos Kazanakis into a clear foul in the 22nd. Kazanakis might still have gotten away with it, but his booting of the ball away in frustration confirmed his yellow card.
It would be three-nil several minutes on, with Kalki Parvathaneni
zooming through on a giddy blend of pace and control. Cyril Montet thought he had hemmed Kalki in between himself and goalkeeper Beppe Caserta, but he hadn't counted on the Number 37 threading the needle between them both, and stroking the ball into the net before finally losing his balance.
There was some return for Bagode as Talel Borji made full use of an overextension from Bernie Egan
to sweep in from the left and score, and they would find themselves far more involved in attack, with Grilled fading. Vikram Mudaliar
nonetheless got close enough to prod one over the bar in the 31st minute, but it would be Romanian forward Marius Croitor who would rue missing his team's best chance of the half, shooting right at Massoud Dob
when either to the left or the right would have worked.
Grilled therefore managed to finish the first half with a two-goal lead, which Kánya evidently wasn't happy about, going by his triple substitution for the second half. Bert Dierckx, Mieczysław Górecki and Francisco Tabernero came on, as Bagode enjoyed fresh legs in all departments.
This didn't work as Kánya as hoped, sadly, as Mudaliar made up for his earlier miss, on the Birds' first possession. Bagode had actually been knocking it about confidently from their kick-off, but Vornicu then made the mistake of spreading it to Felix Krymskiy, without checking if his winger was ready. Romijn cut the pass out with splendid acceleration, and the defence down his flank was torn to shreds, before Mudaliar presented himself at the far post for a tap-in.
Sensing that they had it in the bag, Grilled unavoidably took the tempo down a couple of notches, though they maintained the vast majority of the time on the ball in any case. Content to play it between their defenders for long stretches, they weren't above seizing opportunities, and Chan Ze Han
played for the free-kick in the 58th minute. It was in a great position for Cyril Künzler
, and only a full-length save from Caserta kept it out.
It felt like just a matter of time before Grilled would record a fifth goal, but Bagode had other ideas. Kalki's ambitious dribble would be stopped in its track by a cool-headed Omar Berianidze with just over ten minutes to go, and Marius Croitor would flip it past Egan in a straight race. He still needed help, though, and it came in the form of Martin Hirsbrunner bombing down the left. Dob had to go for Croitor, leaving Hirsbrunner to finish from the side from the obvious assist.
This had Hovaness Noubaryan
take the mostly-spent Kalki off for José Luiz Velho
, with a brief to help out in pressing. This he did perhaps too eagerly, as he knocked Tabernero over despite having no chance to win the ball, before rolling on quite unconvincingly. Referee Tyson R. Novak was entirely unamused, and went straight for his book.