The New Low
The omens were good for Yuki Irie
's return, but few recognized just how good, as the Birds slew newbies are newbies 8-1 for their biggest league win in four seasons. The midfield, vilified after last Sunday's defeat to FC Barca Singapore, responded with a high-energy demonstration the likes of which had not been seen for many a year, and that the visitors were caught wholly unprepared for after two walkovers against Charis FC.
Some pundits had expected the fortnight's rest to provide newbies with the extra edge they needed, all the more as they had come very close to stopping Grilled in their last meeting, but they brought little of that day's fire to The Cooking Pot. Yue Haoping and Zhang Ruotian tried to press the issue through individual skill, but found themselves swarmed in the early going, and with barely any support from their subdued central players.
The signs were positive for the Birds, who hardly missed the rested Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
, as Zhao Jing Wei
continued to make a tempting case as a deep-lying playmaker. He might not cover as much ground as before, but his vision has if anything only improved, as fleshed out by a wonderful behind-the-back pass to Yuki Irie
in the seventh minute. Yuki might well have obtained a dream start to his Grilled career, but his thunderous effort flew back off the crossbar.
The match would soon seem made for another man, as Low Aik Jia
came into his own on the left. While hardly as well-rounded as former national youth winger Yue, Low repeatedly proved himself to be significantly quicker over short distances, which was all he really needed. Not even Yue's excellent understanding with Matías Soto could prevent them from being left behind when Low made his move after 16 minutes, which left Spanish veteran Javier Caamaño open for the chipping.
Low continued his heavy involvement, sprinting onto Wong Ping Shun
's corner kick to lift it on for Zhao to nip home five minutes later, and then ran through to make it 3-0 on the half-hour. newbies' legend-turned-coach Roshadi bin Che Rusli could only stand and watch with a slightly bemused look, as his team struggled to come to terms with Low's seemingly uncounterable pace.
Zhang Ruotian did give the visitors scant hope as he got one back soon after Low's second, through Massimo Dichio's admirable hold-up play, but the Birds were determined to end the half no less than three goals up. Zhang had been faring better with Wong Ping Shun
on the other flank, at least until Wong squeezed in a half-blocked cross off him that Ang Leong Kum
hastened to head in.
Ang had been rated as perhaps the most promising midfielder of Grilled's new generation, and it was not hard to see why as he interspersed sensible passing with keen directness where appropriate. Together with Low's fearless running, this was a pairing that the newbies side were ill-equipped to deal with, and the two combined slickly to create another Ang goal in the 51st minute.
Zhao Jing Wei
would make it six from the mid with his no-nonsense finish eight minutes on, which the glum visiting support behind Caamaño's barely bothered to react to by then. Rinor Isufi
, who had been angling to get on the scoresheet for a time, appeared slightly pissed that Zhao hadn't laid that one on for him, but caught himself in time.
Isufi would not see him name up in lights this day, with Peter Haley making it his personal mission to trip the Albanian up, and it was left to Tian Yonghang
to represent the forwards on the scoresheet. It would be Low's third assist of the day, this one played between Raja Sahu's feet while both were in full flight, though Tian nearly tripped over himself in brushing it past Caamaño. Of course, they all count.
The rout ended with Gene Filippone
's raking strike, Grilled's eighth of the day, in the 67th minute, although Clément Meyer
could well have added gloss but for Javier Caamaño's glamourous if not very consequential stop. Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
would enter as an 85th minute sub for Zhao, but found himself joining a match that had been over in all but name.