Voila At Home
Kalle To The Rescue
Four seasons after losing both their fixtures in II.4 to Sapphire Challenger Cup three-peaters Ramseille Volliard FC, Grilled Birds would finally gain their first ever victory in this Jurong derby - and it was hardly a done thing at all. The result absolutely sat on tenterhooks until the last seven minutes, as the visitors were more than capable of punishing Grilled on the counter, and it was only Kalle ter Berg
's brusque late winner than wrested the points.
Ramseille's storied head coach Yeoh Wei Puay, who is now into his twenty-seventh season in charge, was not about to change much from what had brought him two convincing wins against the Birds. While most of their core team such as Leonard Bačnar and Elías Moreno were arguably entering a noticeable decline, it had to be remembered that they were not only able to pick up a secondary national cup thrice in a row, alongside promoting to the top flight. And, as Tecos Foreign Legion would ruefully have to admit, Ramseille retained firepower enough, to wreck any less-than-prepared side.
Against this, Eren Serpin
would deploy Wu Jinglong
for extra attacking heft on the right, with Kalki Parvathaneni
being rewarded for his effectiveness on the left with another start. Bernie Egan
would direct central midfield today, with Salah Kamel
's projected head-to-head against Pierre-Yves Robert touted as the matchup to watch, in the local media. Hugo Lamm would again be Ramseille's lone striker ostensibly due to Idrissa Sougoufara's indifferent form, and the duo of Gilbert Webb
and Mateja Jeftić
would share the responsibility of keeping tabs on the German forward.
It would be a superb introduction to the game for Grilled, despite pre-game concerns about finding their first goal against the visitors' five-man backline. A busy clamour just inside Ramseille's half just a minute in, would see Kamel emerge with the ball; his teammates weren't shy about running at the opposition defence, and the first wave occupied enough defenders such that Bernie Egan
was freed up. Kamel's pass was perfect for Egan to sprint onto, and the Irishman would crash his stunning effort, down and in off Giancarlo Buffon's crossbar.
However, it had to be remembered that the Birds had managed to score in both their previous defeats to this club, and it was not for naught that Ramseille had suffered just the one league defeat against Arrogancae last season. Years of operating as a group had produced the sort of unmistakeable synergy that eluded most teams, and Lamm would earn a corner kick in difficult circumstances, seventeen minutes in. As it happened, that was enough, as Norwegian fullback Steinar Ramberg blew past all comers, to ram an unsaveable header past Jānis Salmiņš
That would be the first competitive goal that Grilled's record new signing had allowed, and if it was any consolation, there could have been no goalkeeper alive who could have stopped that. More was to come as Ramseille's frightening potency at converting chances reared its head again in the 27th minute, as a barely-noticeable mistake by Moey Xin Seng
was read by Murathan Esinay; the speed at which Ramseille followed it up was remarkable, and Vasil Eliava would arrive to sweep the ball home.
Worse for Grilled, Salmiņš appeared to have pulled his calf trying to stop Eliava's strike by doing a split, and the next couple of exchanges would have many in the stands on the edge of their seats. Kalki and Kamel would have their attempts blocked, as Wu Jinglong
began to get the measure of Leonard Bačnar, and both these tries would see Ramseille roar back in strength. Salmiņš would have to ignore the pain to leap at Leopold Lõhmus' shot, and he would only be able to obtain treatment after Carl-Georg Reeperbahn put the ball wide, two minutes later.
Serpin would have to make the hard decision of whether to stick with a goalkeeper who was barely able to stand, and indeed Manuel Vadalà
was up and jogging the moment Salmiņš went down the first time. He would eventually stay with the Latvian, who however made the concession of having Gilbert Webb
take his goal kicks. The home crowd were encouraging in their support of Salmiņš with their idiosyncratic "Potato!
" chant, which the goalkeeper found funny enough.
The half-time break did a world of good to Salmiņš' condition, and he would return back on equal footing - which was just as well, as he had a vital touch to make against Steinar Ramberg's monstrous twenty-yarder in the 67th minute. Bhavya Panigrahi
had just come on for Mateja Jeftić
then, which might have contributed to Ramberg being afforded the time and room that he had.
It was Grilled's turn to retaliate against an overcommitted Ramseille, and who would it be to score the equalizer, than the red-hot Kalki Parvathaneni
. Sarcastic Fringeheads didn't know what to make of the forward-turned-winger last Sunday, when Kalki struck twice against them, and it was much the same for Ramseille today. His incesscant interchanging with Moey had given the opposing backline plenty to chew on throughout the match, and one such exchange saw him angle a tremendous right-footer across Buffon, and in off the far post.
That merely made it 2-2, however, which would be a disappointing outcome for a Grilled team with title ambitions. Even that was hardly guaranteed, as Ramseille continued to look very dangerous, whenever they had the opportunity to test the Birds on the break. Lamm in particular made no bones about aggressively hanging on the shoulder of the last man, as Grilled meandered on the height of the line that they were willing to play.
Grilled's salvation would finally come with seven minutes remaining, as their sitting in the visitors' half threw up an open path into the box, after long periods of nothing happening for the Birds. Kalle ter Berg
was ever one to forge ahead in this situation, and with the defenders understandably wary of tripping him at this late stage, Ter Berg would make it near the six-yard box before releasing his shot at just the right moment.
This was just what The Cooking Pot had been waiting for, and the tide would be thoroughly turned for the Birds, as they started to really wail on the Ramseille defence. Kalki would see a half-chance scrape the bar on their next attack, with Kalle heading it straight to Buffon as Wu delivered from the right wing next. Bilal Mohammad Harun
would come on for Webb to take up some seconds, and the visitors' final push in injury time would see Vasil Eliava booked for trying to get the ball back by going through the shielding Chan Ze Han