The Birds could have done far better with their warmup for the Emerald Challenger Cup finals, as they fell to Ramseille Volliard for the second time in as many weeks - and more heavily at that. This would also be their first visit to HighVolliard Park, where the hosts had attracted a full house of 60000, to witness what head coach Yeoh Wei Puay had colourfully described to be "a stonking good show
". He was definitely proven correct on that.
Ramseille saw few reasons to switch from the counterattacking lineup that had served them so well last week, and moreover tweaked it to be yet more secure, as Frenchman Pierre-Yves Robert joined Murathan Esinay in midfield after sitting out the last edition; he would duly play a major role in Grilled's defeat. For Grilled themselves, they trusted much the same team, if with Vikram Mudaliar
benched due to being on two yellows, as Hovaness Noubaryan
had it. Cyril Künzler
was given free rein to operate as he pleased, after his stellar stint in the Division Battles.
Sadly, this tactical liberty availed the Birds not, as they again found their free-flowing football - and cup distraction - a liability against an utterly-focused Ramseille Volliard selection. There was no question that almost all of the Birds players had not getting hurt or booked as their number one concern, although to be fair, those were probably also the official instructions. However, without that edge to that game, getting through the home team's exceedingly-watertight back five was always going to be problematic.
And it wasn't as if Ramseille were lightweights from normal play either, as their midfield was more than capable of exploiting weaknesses in Grilled's structure, whenever they arose. One such occasion happened in the 22nd minute, when Moey Xin Seng
pushed forward rather too abruptly, and left open plains for Murathan Esinay to traverse. The Turkish playmaker, so effective last Sunday, would again make all the right choices, as he teased Grilled's defenders before scooping it on for Pierre-Yves Robert to blast home.
Robert was again at it in the 35th minute, as the pace in Ramseille's midfield expressed itself without reservations, and Massoud Dob
could only watch as it came off his crossbar. This led to Grilled's own breakaway, which broke down midway, but Chu Xin Lee
made the equalizer for himself by predicting Carl-Georg Reeperbahn's backpass made on autopilot. This proved but a momentary reprieve, however, as Robert restored Ramseille's lead, cleaving to Sergio Sonino's dribble from the right.
It only got worse, as Grilled's half-baked attacks consistently found little purchase against a far less restrained home team, who thus had plenty of opportunities to punish them on the counter. One more such effort arrived five minutes before half-time, with former Slovenian international Leonard Bačnar outflanking everyone to make it 3-1 on Idrissa Sougoufara's fearless advance.
Grilled were really in a bind here, as although their natural style wasn't working, they were not too good at controlling the game with a moderate rhythm either - not that they had the leisure to try that anyway. No, now two goals down, it was continue attacking or bust. Much banging of heads against walls marked the opening twenty minutes of the second half, before Heng Dong Chu
was again invited to be the difference down the left.
Heng didn't half make a bad introduction either, as his tricky footwork caused Steinar Ramberg to take him down illegally within three minutes of his arrival, leading to a booking for the Norwegian fullback, and what was essentially a corner kick. Unfortunately, Moey couldn't quite get his head to that with Leopold Lõhmus standing his ground, and Grilled only found themselves further behind a while later, with Carl-Georg Reeperbahn flying in to convert Sonino's outswinging cross.
The terrible outing would come to an end after Sougoufara himself put the finish touches on, after Buffon had saved magnificently from Kalki Parvathaneni
in the 76th. The only consolation that the Birds could take from this was perhaps that they would be at full strength for the cup final, and that Chan Ze Han
's mentality remained strong as ever when he came on for Kalki, two minutes from time.