Horozu Held Off
There would be so sitting on their haunches for Grilled Birds, as they threw themselves straight back into the World Battle league tournament, and just about defeated Turkish II.1 leaders Denizli Horozu. There was almost nothing separating the sides in this game, and Horozu's veteran one club man İsmail Ege Cansu did more than enough to turn it around for his team. The Birds barely kept to their strengths after conceding a second equalizer, and it was all they could do, to protect their fourth goal after that.
As with the great Grilled sides of the past, Denizli Horozu's achievements had been based on their blending of a tight-knit local midfield core with outside talent, a formula that recently-installed Italian head coach Eduardo Fracassetti kept close to heart. Fracassetti had few illusions that his aging squad didn't have many more years at peak condition, but as of this moment, they were surely competitive to reach their long-stated goal: the Turkish Süper Lig.
Fracassetti's old position in goal has been ably filled for the past five seasons by former Thai international Sukkamol Jumsai, who would be asked to act as a sweeper-keeper today, in accordance with Horozu's ambitious high line. The shortcomings didn't take very long to show though, as Bernie Egan
simply pivoted around Cansu with a calculated first touch, and caught Jumsai out from some thirty yards.
This meant that Grilled were ahead by the second minute, and while Horozu were too good not to make the necessary adjustments, the Birds' directness remained pretty effective. Neeraj Muthyala
took advantage of their continued reluctance to stay back in the 14th minute, and carried it inside the box for 2-0. The visitors would continue adapting despite that, and got their first goal back in the 23rd, as Willy Schietecatte zoomed up the left to supply Tankut Örik for the perfect low drive.
It was soon clear that Horozu's true power lay in their midfield engine, even if the likes of Dave van der Stap made Bhavya Panigrahi
look out of it at times; they would cover for each other almost instinctively, and once in their element, they left few clear vulnerabilities even when advancing en masse. One such full-spectrum attack freed Cansu in the 37th minute, and he would pay Grilled back for that early mistake, with a calm sidefooted finish around Massoud Dob
There was a fiercely-contested period as the second half got underway, but the Birds would once again come out tops, with Vikram Mudaliar
claiming the advantage back by breaking Horozu's offside trap. Noubaryan would soon after execute the planned substitution of Kalki Parvathaneni
on for Chan Ze Han
, to keep the pressure on. Cyril Künzler
was more than willing, and delivered a stunning curler to Jumsai's top corner, that the goalkeeper barely tipped over.
The same story would then play out, as Horozu grew into the second half too, as they began to subtly steal the tempo back from Grilled's slightly-overconfident midfield. Their left flank would be particularly productive, with Schietecatte and Plamen Rankov finding Yuta Nakakita
exploitable on the dribble, and Cansu would magically appear to put it in, with Moey Xin Seng
trailing him ineffectually.
For some minutes there, Horozu looked like the favourites to build on their comebacks to win it, but Noubaryan's inclusion of Kalki turned out to be a delayed masterstroke. Kalki's unrestrained pace proved too much for the visitors to bear, before and after his 73rd minute headed goal from Künzler's floated cross. Horozu made a last-ditch push for a third equalizer in injury time, only to nearly be punished by Bilal Mohammad Harun
's opportunistic lob, which would have been a worthy mirror of Egan's opener had it went in.