Memories of their gutless 1-6 surrender in this fixture last season were still lodged indelibly in the Grilled supporters' minds, as they approached the match with some trepidation. newbies executed their previous strategy with fair success in the first half, leaving another mortal blow to the Birds' pride very much on the cards. Everything changed in the second half, however, as the Birds delivered perhaps their best one-half showing in several years, to put newbies to the sword.
Sim Kian Eng had kept to the tactic that had served them so well in their last visit to The Cooking Pot, and in all honesty, they had little reason not to. With few indications that the Birds had fixed up their major weaknesses, watching and waiting was always going to be an attractive prospect, what more with striker Chia Loong Ping in superb condition. Curtis Dave was a notable absence in their backline, having left for Poland's KS Świerczewo Poznań via Mühendis Bey SK early in April, but there was no evidence that this would make much of a difference.
For Grilled, their answer was to pull Moey Xin Seng
back into central midfield, apparently at the behest of the 21 year-old captain himself, as he felt that it was where he could make the biggest impact. This might of course simple have been a reaction to all the vitriol poured his way, after a frankly poor outing against ArSenal U21 - but, on balance, he was hardly wrong either.
It might be tough to attribute the Birds' fluency to this change alone, but it was indeed clear that Moey was in his element operating further back. This gave him the room ahead that he needed to sketch out the broad strokes of attacking moves, which had a real trickle-down effect. Cyril Künzler
, who too had a dip in form last week, would enjoy putting 'em into the box. Florus Romijn
duly got onto the end of them in the 13th minute, and powered his volley past Seetoh Aik Beng.
If there was a hint of luck with Romijn's contact for that one, there was no denying his dribbling skill another thirteen minutes on. Swinging in from the left side, he passed Guan Wen Jin, and then Kwok Wan Yau, with a disconcerting ease. Demonstrating his selflessness, he then pitched it to Islom Davlatov
after shaping up to shoot, allowing the Uzbek Number Ten a simple finish, that he certainly appreciated.
Leow Jing Ting answered against the run of play in the 38th minute, but it seemed more a blip than anything, and Chu Xin Lee
would have made it three had it not been for Seetoh Aik Beng's reflexes. The rush for the partially-cleared rebound would claim Moey Xin Seng
as a victim, though, with Li Rong Lee forcing him to ground, causing Moey to land heavily on his side. To make it worse, Prokop Mottl
had a nightmare start upon entering the game, as he hit a square pass horribly short, allowing Daniel Quong to take advantage and equalise.
This was about as good as the visitors could have expected the half to end, and they went on to do everything in their power to increase their chances of capitalizing. Their defence in deep did frustrate, but Romijn was versed in operating in tight spaces by now, and his strike in the 56th minute prompted Sim to throw his trusty veterans - Yue Haoping and Zhang Ruotian - on.
Unfortunately for newbies, they would learn what Grilled had before, in that quality without mobility was a disaster in the making. There was little to fault about Yue and Zhang's decision-making, but they simply didn't have the legs for it any longer. Neeraj Muthyala
's goal on the overlap right after their entrance hinted at what was to come, and sure enough, Zhang was left hacking at thin air, when Islom Davlatov
challenged him en route to making it 5-2 in the 68th.
Though it was clear by now that their tack wasn't working, newbies didn't have many cards in reserve, and they were left hoping that Peter Haley could somehow turn it around. He was still waiting to step in when Davlatov earned a corner by having a long shot deflected, though, and came on just in time to observe Neeraj Muthyala
winning out against young Martin Tung's laudable leap, to bang in a header.
The home fans were definitely savouring the moment, and had no intention of letting up on their increasingly-creative songs, targeted at the despondent away contingent. Kalki Parvathaneni
placing it between Seetoh's legs for the seventh and final goal was roundly fêted, to the former national youth goalie's evident indignation, which only brought an encore.