Having picked up just one less-than-exciting win in their six league matches thus far, Grilled's feast of goals at The Cooking Pot this morning was exactly what the doctor would have ordered. There were plenty of those to go around as the Birds' attack came to life in gripping fashion, with Yuta Nakakita
providing testimony to just why Grilled had spent nearly S$8 million to lure him back from their East Coast rivals.
It was a transfer that hadn't done Arcturules much good either, with them entering this game with an identically-poor win-loss record. Their reinvestment of S$6 million of the Nakakita money into Swiss winger Jean-Luc Lustenegger had been less impactful than new head coach Virgil Bogdan had hoped, with him not quite gelling as the departing Georg Heiderbach had.
Then again, it was not as if Grilled were riding high either, and with Number Nine Mikael Åhnbeck and captain Joachim Kapecki in tip-top form, the punters mostly fancied their chances. Djan Bacelar
kept with the same starting lineup that had earned the Birds a draw at Controlar, and to be honest, it was not like they had much better.
This was shaping up to be the kind of frustrating counter-attacking defeat that Grilled had suffered all too many times in recent weeks, but subtle distinctions soon began showing. They certainly seemed to have learnt their lessons well, and some canny leadership by Tian Yonghang
saw Grilled bide their time, holding it in the centre.
Not only that, the Birds further found luck going their way, in front of goal. 28 minutes in, Ang Leong Kum
watched as his throwaway shot got deflected right into the bottom corner as Hisyam Soleh Zain watched on in disbelief, and Tian then doubled the lead right from the restart, as young former national U-20 defender Quah Woon Qiang inexplicably froze up.
While that might yet be remembered as a valuable learning experience for Quah, the fact was that Arcturules were getting run over, and it was up to Kapecki to stem the bleeding with a clever sweep in off international fullback Hong Yi Soon's run to the byline. They couldn't catch a break, though, as Rinor Isufi
ended his fourteen-match barren streak by rounding Zain after a pickoff. His relief was definitely palpable.
Off-the-ball shenanigans saw Neeraj Muthyala
booked, and Hariharan Prabhu
limping off, after separate incidents, but that didn't slow Grilled any; and who would it be but Yuta Nakakita
, who would rise highest to score from Dvorak's corner to the near side? Low Aik Tia then upped it to 5-1 in the last seconds of injury time, catching his own double rebound off the woodwork.
The spectators could finally catch their breath after that last went in, and the mood at The Pot was as high as it had been in many months. The visitors gave every impression of only having it sink in once the half-time whistle went, and many of the Grilled players too seemed to realise only then that they were four goals up
There was no way that the second half could live up to this insanity, all the more as Arcturules clammed up in a bid to avoid further embarrassment. The Birds started slowly, and it would be Åhnbeck who would make the first real attempt, having a pop at the top corner after shrugging Yuki Irie
off. Although it would float wide eventually, it was still too close for Wong Tian Han
Hoàng Trung Quá
entered for Gene Filippone
as Bacelar's preferred impact sub, and he was indeed much more urgent in sending the ball out of Grilled's own half. It might just have been a coincidence, but Gennady Dvorak
became a changed man almost immediately afterwards, and might well have had a hat-trick had Zain not come up with a miracle save on his free-kick.
There was no denying the animated Argentine for long, however, and he would make it 7-1 by the 84th minute, as he slowly wore down the Arcturules defence with his all-too-positive play. If his solo goal in the 80th minute was impressive, his lightning-quick combination with Isufi after that had to be downright terrifying for future opponents, given how comprehensively they took the Arcturules defenders out in mere seconds.
Mikael Åhnbeck's additional consolation from Kapecki's searching low cross in injury time might
have made it a little easier to swallow, but from how the Arcturules stars refused to even smile at it, we doubt it.