Grilled's posturing after their 7-2 sweep of Arcturules from last week came to bite them back, as the pumped-up East Coast club retaliated in force. It could have been home advantage, it could have been the Birds' very obvious deficiencies in attack, but the outcome was set either way - painful defeat.
The team sheet had pointedly left Low Aik Jia
and Rinor Isufi
on the bench, quite possibly due to their lack of application in this week's friendly and tournament games, but this robbed the squad of any pace they had left; Clark Won
was clearly more comfortable lying deep, and to put it bluntly, just did not have a striker's mentality.
's reshuffling of the left wing was even more questionable, with Hoàng Trung Quá
eager, but simply clueless on the wing. Despite putting up a brave show, he was clearly torn between operating as an advanced centreback - his usual position - and doing his best impression of a confused fullback. Joachim Kapecki on the other hand had no such identity issues, and took great pleasure in baiting Hoàng with his calculated darting runs.
Grilled's coaching staff could possibly have tried to fix this with a prompt tactical substitution, but Bacelar and company were not willing to admit their mistake just yet. The team would suffer for it soon enough, as Kapecki nodded Jean-Luc Lustenegger's flat cross down and in with fifteen minutes gone, before swerving past a tangle-footed Hoàng to make it two, in the 34th.
Low was half-heartedly warming up by the sidelines by then, but Bacelar would eventually hold off on the change, perhaps figuring that the damage was already done. Tian Yonghang
did tease at a reducer about then, after Ang Leong Kum
squeezed a cross in against Mason Chan. Tian wound up not being able to maintain his initial advantage in moving in, though, and Hisyam Soleh Zain would gather it quite comfortably, with the Grilled skipper blocked off.
At the other end, the Arcturules attacks were doing a number on Yuki Irie
, with referee Sture Magnusson taking a hands-off approach. Yuki was receiving a heavy dose of magic spray on the sidelines when the hosts came up led by Lustenegger once again, but Gene Filippone
rode to the rescue, with a precisely-timed sliding block on Kwiryn Skutecki's finish.
Actually, the Birds were not looking that bad as the game went on, but they simply were unable to turn their periods of possessions into notable chances. If there was one word that had to be chosen to describe their play, it could well be "disjointed". This was perhaps most amply illustrated by Gennady Dvorak
being on a completely different wavelength to Hoàng in the 57th minute, when a simple step forward could have resulted in a likely goal.
Grilled had little time to mourn the lost opportunity, as Arcturules bombarded their way back into the penalty area. Although NS Kumble was hauled up for some rather cringeworthy simulation, they were hardly done, and Cristiano Fuso stabbed their third in after Wong Tian Han
failed to hold on to Skutecki's monster strike from outside the box.
Arcturules didn't even bother to attack much after that, and left a panicky Grilled team to try and come up with solutions. Low Aik Jia
had inserted his earbuds by now, seated in the dugout, and of those on the pitch, only Hariharan Prabhu
was making any headway - which was far from enough.
Bacelar would turn to Rinor Isufi
as a last resort, and to everyone's - not least Rinor himself - surprise, it worked. Seconds after coming on for an exhausted Tian, the Albanian found himself standing around as Huang Ah Yeng got careless with a clearing header, and threw himself into an acrobatic scissors kick. Zain's mind refused to register the audacity of it all, and the Arcturules goalie only watched as it bounced into his net unopposed.
While this meant that Isufi had scored for his second match in succession, it meant little for Grilled's own situation. Indeed, in their eagerness to chase the game back, they had to leave gaping holes in defence, which would be their downfall. Ang Leong Kum
tried to force his way through in the 83rd, but was contained by two opponents, and Mason Chan made it 4-1 on the return strike.
, who had been fighting a losing battle all the way, would finally pay the ultimate price, as he took young Ranga Myriyala's uncontrolled kick in the stomach. The Arcturules trainee did at least have the decency to look mortified when he realised what he had done, and accepted his booking without complaint.
The hosts weren't going to let up because of that, though, and Mikael Åhnbeck added a fifth and last goal, to hearty agreement from the stands.