Ter Berg Highs & Lows
Kalle ter Berg
seems to be the player the team's revolving around at the current moment - if not all for the better, as French II.2 club TWEEZERS turfed the Birds out of the Golden Trophy at the quarterfinal stage. Winners of the Trophée Émeraude and then the Trophée Saphir five to seven seasons before, Paris' finest survived a second-half catching-up, and won 4-2 after Grilled found themselves a man short.
Having won the league last season, TWEEZERS faced Les chats noars d'Ankh-Morpork for their place in the Championnat, only to be defeated in extra time; this was hardly an indictment of their embarassment of riches squad-wise, though, as evidenced by their affording to drop Chilean forward Sabino Escobar, who shone with a brace in the 4-1 win over former Bosnian Cup winners C.F. Real Lukavac in the last round. Their Italian plotter Diego Gentilucci had lined them up in a 3-5-2 today, to better contest the Birds on the possession front.
Grilled would more than hold their own in the initial going, but this unfortunately would not translate into real returns. This was not for want of opportunities for the strikers, with Kalki Parvathaneni
sending the TWEEZERS defence into panic for an instant in the ninth minute, with his improvised cross from the left. The partial clearance would be dealt to Chan Ze Han
, who tried to carry it into the box, before having to settle for an overhit pass towards Bernie Egan
An interesting development was ex-Icelandic U-20 international Sigurlás Hafsteinsson seemingly having been tasked with man-marking Salah Kamel
instead of Chan, who has usually been identified as the main threat. This would be slightly troublesome for Hafsteinsson especially given how deep Kamel could go, but TWEEZERS' organization made it work. This progressed to Marian Choma's goal in the 26th minute, as the Pole made the most out of Bhavya Panigrahi
's uncompensated push forward.
This would only get worse for Grilled, who had held the upper hand - if barely - up till then. TWEEZERS kept on being very conservative without the ball, as Moey Xin Seng
found, in trying to progress up the right side several minutes later. A lay-off to Bilal Mohammad Harun
was read by Ivo Tompa, and TWEEZERS would switch from zero to a hundred down the same flank, leading to Allan Fletcher making it 0-2 on a rapid if simple overlap.
then recorded the Birds' best shot of the day, having done most of the work for himself on the right, but it was still nowhere near seriously troubling Slovakian Number One Kende Gyebnár. A S$26.6 million pricetag had to be a lot to live up to, but from Gyebnár's dominance in letting in less than a goal a game in the league thus far, the TWEEZERS fans have had very little to nitpick.
The second half began with Choma drawing a reaction stop from Massoud Dob
, who made it clear that he wasn't impressed with his defenders on that move. It did seem to spur Grilled's players to sharpen up, and they finally began to make the opposition look genuinely uncomfortable, via a mix of direct running and expansive passing. An off-the-ball scuffle between Allan Fletcher and Moey resulted in an indirect free-kick for the Birds in the 55th minute, and Kalle brooked no resistance with his single-tracked thirst for the ball, to make it 1-2.
Grilled were coming into their own on set-pieces, and the comeback was officially on ten minutes later, as they won a series of corners by applying heavy pressing. Mateja Jeftić
, who had also been responsible for the earlier delivery, sent it to the far post on the third take. Simultaneously, Salah Kamel
escaped Hafsteinsson for once, and wisely emphasized accuracy over power in heading it in at the near top corner.
TWEEZERS were not about to relinquish their lead without a struggle, and Grilled's building momentum would be brutally stalled in short order. Their eagerness to carry on allowed the French side to turn the tables soon after the restart, with Jan Aune stretching impressively to turn Cristian Cabal's ambitious assist home. Worse, Kalle ter Berg
would then receive his second yellow, for what appeared a debatable late challenge on Hungarian midfielder Barnabás Rácz.
Justified or not, the referee's decision would be final, and Eren Serpin
could wait no longer in making his substitutes: Mudaliar on for Egan, and Gilbert Webb
on for Jeftić, whose endurance was seemingly not quite up to his set-piece skills. This all pointed to increasingly-direct attacks on the TWEEZERS goal, and led to Kalki's 79th minute piledriver that seemed in all the way... up until José Horacio Rodríguez's intervention at the last second.
TWEEZERS were not without fangs of their own, unfortunately, which would be revealed in their full majesty in the last ten minutes. They somehow spurned a fourth goal from Nick Upadek's corner kick tap-on, as Hafsteinsson crashed it off the post with half the goal begging, but Upadek would go it himself to close the match down, two minutes later.