It was a foregone conclusion right from the beginning, and from the bloodbath that followed, it was hard to believe that this was the same Grilled team that had done the double over Be Champions FC in the league just last season. If anything, it was a stark reminder of how swiftly fortunes can change, but on balance, it was hard to take credit away from the hosts, who lifted the S-League title on the back of one of the most dominating campaigns in recent memory.
A few months made all the difference, as the knife-edge tension at The Special Place - where oldies Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
and Chow Ying Lee
had forced a win that all but scuppered BCFC's aspirations - had been replaced by a carnival atmosphere. The trophy had long been installed in their cabinet, and the Birds' role in this particular derby would only be secondary.
It would not have been that bad if that was all it was, but BCFC were not about to give themselves over to partying just yet. The guard of honour entrance dispensed with, the red-shirted conquerers sprang into action. Grilled however revisited their prior levels for a while, and scrapped more evenly than the travelling fans dared hope.
This couldn't last, and the disparity in general fitness soon told. Of course, this is not to discount the incredible strength in depth that the hosts possessed, without which they could not have taken the league at a canter. Though Nic Zuberbühler served as lone frontman, his supply line had to be the best in the land by some measure, and he smashed two in the 19th and 20th minutes to wake the match up in a hurry.
A cheer did come from the Grilled section as they responded promptly, with Clément Meyer
demonstrating unexpected agility to half-skip Erkan Aydınel's challenge. He could not have had the ensuing crossfield pass to Ling Fuquan
in mind when he then slingshotted the ball while falling, but that was what it became, and Ling kept enough of his wits about him to prod it past Edmundo Ortega.
Unfortunately, that would be little more than a breather for the home team, who kept a firm grip on the proceedings. While many pundits had classed their midfield as slightly superior in both the Birds' upsets last season, this had become a yawning gap today, and not even their formidable experience could keep Grilled's veterans from being embarassed.
Zuberbühler's hat-trick goal, coming off a flying run through the heart of Grilled's defence, could not help but call into contrast Tian Yonghang
's floundering about when in the same situation. It was hardly the Grilled skipper's fault, in the conditions, but one could only suspect that he might have pulled a miracle off had it been several years back.
Wong Tian Han
kept Arnold Pang's stinging piledriver out barely two minutes after that as BCFC relentlessly laid siege. Though there was still another half to go, it was clear that Grilled's fate would not be in their own hands. News that Joker 9 were narrowly ahead of Random Curiosity FC over at Aljunied Bridge lifted spirits marginally, though.
Grilled reprised their initial resistance, with Clément Meyer
doing a lot to help keep the wolves at bay, but his effectiveness against fellow Frenchman Benoît Pouderoux inevitably diminished after receiving a yellow card for one stiff tackle too many. The pressure was building up, and 61 minutes in, the dam finally broke with Feng Shifang's clean finish against Wong Tian Han
after some excellent build-up from Pouderoux.
Be Champions FC were up for it, and the Birds evidently not so much. A rout could not be prevented as Grilled simply let themselves go, as evidenced by the complete lack of response when Arnold Pang split Meyer and Clark Won
's coverage in the 76th. Neither might have been actual defenders, but this didn't earn them much mercy, as Pang proceeded to put it in with aplomb.
The Birds' high point would ironically come sandwiched between BCFC's final two goals, when Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
nearly rolled back the years with a battering one-man foray against their entire backline. Unfortunately, he came up short, while neither Foo Ah De nor Feng again did - the former from a clever corner routine, and the latter off an elementary mistake by Won.