One For Chiu
The end-result came as no surprise, but Cats United gave Grilled a mild headache to begin with, as they expended a tremendous effort in the first half-hour to nearly keep pace with their visitors. Terence Chiu then dared their long-suffering fans to believe, when he scored only their third league goal of the campaign, but the Birds would rally to cruelly dash their dreams.
Nobody in their right mind had much doubt about how this one would turn out, but Grilled were evidently, and with good reason, not taking chances with a full-strength lineup. The Cats' Bulgarian gaffer Blagoy Petrinski sure looked the more relaxed of the coaches as they shook hands before kick-off, probably as he had long been resigned to his side's fate.
Cats United, for all their off-the-pitch troubles, did retain some pride on it, with main defender Cheung Kian Puay remaining devoted to the thankless task of trying to clean up at the back; as so often has been the case, this failed in the ninth minute, when Islom Davlatov
flicked it back out left for Florus Romijn
to open from, after a full minute of Grilled banging on a brick wall.
would play through a calf strain sustained soon after that, and Chan Ze Han
added another from Cyril Künzler
's assist in the 20th, his first goal in four starts. Chan's dip in form had evidently been playing on his mind, judging from his cheeky shushing of the away stands upon scoring, and thankfully Javier Agudelo decided to let the provocation slide.
Cats did get their first shot on through Teo Dong Hock on a counter from Moey Xin Seng
's striking the post, and goalie Aw Jing Yun then did his bit to keep spirits up, tipping over from Kalki Parvathaneni
. And then, it came - trainee forward Khairee Abdul Muhaimin played for the corner wisely against Yuki Irie
, and Terence Chiu leaped highest in a packed box, to drop his header past Valentin Batâr
Grilled would reply twice in their next two attacks, though Chu Xin Lee
and Florus Romijn
, but those barely registered in the stadium, with the Cats supporters having deemed their team to have made its point. They took particular pleasure in ironic chants of "We scored, we scored!
" on each Birds goal thereafter, which the Birds players greeted with good-enough cheer.
There would be quite a number of those to come, with Hoàng Trung Quá
seeming a better fit for the occasion, after he replaced Yuki Irie
during the break. Teo Dong Hock was clearly spent on Cyril Künzler
's flank, having given too much of himself too early, and the Birds were soon targeting him without apology.
Künzler first went it himself in the 64th minute, positioning himself brilliantly for Moey's expected lifting it over the top. It would be a complete rampage in the next minutes as he then went on to record two assists, first nicked it through for Chu to strike again. His next one came from a show of pure pace, as he ripped the Cats' left defence to shreds, together with the centrally-placed Kalki Parvathaneni
The match then took a slightly ill-tempered turn, with the Cats players affecting by the crowd's increasing hostility, which was only heightened after Yuta Nakakita
once more celebrated pointedly in their faces, after making it 8-1 in the 80th minute.
Kalki and Islom would be booked in turn for the Birds as the match officials tried to keep the by-now pointless affair under control, and Bacelar too did his part to let things cool, by sending old heads Tian Yonghang
and Rashid bin Ahmad
on to replace the slightly-hurt Muthyala and slightly-irked Yuta respectively.