Plastered On Penalties
Grilled's advance in the Palio di Siena tournament was halted by Tehran competitors FisherKing, who prevailed on penalties after both regular and extra time saw scoring draws. Kalki Parvathaneni
and Bernie Egan
powered an energetic Birds side, that were once again let down by their defensive frailties.
Given FisherKing's reputation and record, the Birds recognized that they would be sitting ducks were they to allow them to get going. It was strike first or bust, then, which would be exemplified by the uncompromising tussle between team captains Moey Xin Seng
and Alberich Hude early on. Hude might have gotten the better of that, but it would be Kalki Parvathaneni
who drew first blood, scorching as he did former Ecuadorian youth international fullback Manolo Villafuerte in the 14th.
There was some dissention over whether Kalki had gained ground illegally on Villafuerte with a hand into the face, and feelings remained running high when Florus Romijn
clattered Walter Espinales. There was a lot of posturing by the players, which was mercifully ended with Romijn's booking after a long telling-to.
FisherKing were having some issues with their organization at this point, with Ovidiu On often having to cover for Jacinto Duarte Nunes on defence, given how Moey and Chan Ze Han
were pulling wide right. As a strategy, it worked brilliantly for the Birds, seeing as how it left Bernie Egan
able to try several clean shots - one of which eluded Celedonio Dalmases in the 23rd.
The Moey-Hude feud continued developing, as Hude stood up for Jacinto Duarte Nunes after the latter had been taken down by Moey while on through to goal; Hude would wind up yellow carded for his provocations, and Moey nearly rubbed salt into the wound by nearly scoring on the restart. The tensions just wouldn't subside as Yuta Nakakita
flirted with dismissal for another slicing-down of Nunes. FisherKing did pull one back through Julien Bazoge, after stellar efforts by Gianfranco Cogo.
would give Dalmases a fright with his free-kick in the 47th minute, but FisherKing would finally find their feet, and came through with the equalizer on their next possession. Walter Espinales outpaced Neeraj Muthyala
with his loping strides in an old-fashioned right-sided race, and Massoud Dob
's positioning when the strike came wasn't ideal.
Espinales wasn't done, and he assisted Kajus Rehling with a top-class cross, 57 minutes in. The Birds were now the ones having to come from behind, and Kalki Parvathaneni
answered the call in minutes. There was an appealling symmetry as Romijn darted past Villafuerte on the outside, before drilling it low to the encroaching Kalki.
Gianfranco Cogo then received the fourth yellow of the match for a horrendous two-footer on Egan, and it was the opposition's turn to clamour for leniency, with Hude pointing to Yuta's case as justification. With their attack losing some steam, Rehling would be replaced by Australian veteran Kody Oaks; there would be no further goals, however, with the full-time score remaining at three-all.
It was becoming more a contest of endurance than skill, with neither side having paced themselves to any great extent, and it was Hude who led by example with his commitment for FisherKing. He managed to pull off a devastating volley after running half the length of the pitch in the 97th minute, a strike that was immediately reinforced by Udo Gertzen's arrival at wingback. Noubaryan considered his options, and went for Gilbert Webb
in place of Bilal, a brave decision to say the least given Webb's form.
Miraculously, the gamble paid off. Webb drew a foul from Julien Bazoge, and the free-kick was taken quickly by Muthyala, with Bernie Egan
the target. It was an easy one-on-one goal with FisherKing entirely unprepared, and their protests would fall on deaf ears, as the linesman confirmed that all was in order.
Sadly, Grilled were conclusively outdone in the shootout, with only Künzler successfully scoring. Yuta Nakakita
tried to be too clever, and Neeraj Muthyala
's excellent effort would be correctly guessed by Dalmases. It would then be all over once Ovidiu On drove his shot straight and high down the middle.