The Birds gave new head coach Hovaness Noubaryan
a thumping victory to start his tenure off, by seeing off City club WolfKnights 7-0 in the Singapore Cup. This was of course hardly unexpected given that it was just WolfKnights' fourth official match after their short existence as TAO PAO PAO H.C., all the more as neither of their signings - José Zamora and James Arkless - appeared to have melded well with the squad.
Facing WolfKnights' local bravos were a Grilled XI with plenty to prove, with Noubaryan cutting an unfamiliar figure at the head of the dugout, in his natty light grey suit. Tactics-wise, not much had changed as he had hinted, and the team he put out was more or less as what the departed Djan Bacelar would have done.
Chan Ze Han
's enforced rest in the off-season sure seemed to have done the 18 year-old a world of good, and it was easy to forget his age, as he threaded his way into plum positions with the assurance of a veteran. Thus it was in the fifth minute, and he then flicked it over Rajinikanth Rao, before unleashing past the stunned Rory Ullman in goal.
His wowing of the crowd would hardly cease in a delightfully-fluid first half, even as others like Florus Romijn
too shone - the Belgian winger with a sweet finish after being put through by Moey Xin Seng
. It was safe to say that the first half-hour was Chan's, though, and he emphasized that with a little jig to eke out the foot of space he required for his second goal, in the 27th.
The game was more or less decided with that, but Islom Davlatov
definitely wasn't about to be merciful just yet, as he collected two goals in quick succession off good crosses from the flanks. Cyril Künzler
then tried to join in the party after bringing the ball from his wing to the other, before reversing course, but his aim was slightly off.
All this while, Noubaryan looked a slightly-nervous figure as he jotted down notes, and his reception of his returning heroes might have been a bit over the board; nothing too out of the ordinary for someone managing a real game by himself for the first time, of course.
The Grilled players took it down a notch for the second half, doubtless with a tough opening fixture in the league in mind. On the opposing side, WolfKnight captain Ahmad Tarmizi Safir played with the courage of one with nothing more to lose, but his and Nate Chung's continued efforts to set Wong Boon Shun up were rather too obvious at this level.
After absorbing a number of such attacks, Grilled ratcheted their pace back up, and Kalki Parvathaneni
broke decisively on the left in the 59th minute, whirling away from Soh Jun Yeng. Rory Ullman's reactions were severely tested by Parvathaneni's jab to his near post, but he threw a hand up in time to deflect it out, to his teammates' delight.
would enter for Hoàng Trung Quá
shortly after, and the Birds vice-captain made it his business to force his comrades forward. With far less dallying around at the back, the chances flowed Grilled's way once more, and there was a right jam in front of WolfKnights' goalmouth in the 72nd minute as the ball refused to go in. Finally, Chu Xin Lee
seized upon a weak punch by Ullman, forcing it home as the defenders turned to watch.
The seventh goal would be Parvathaneni's, as the Indian forward earned his dues with a stylish scissors kick. Florus Romijn
then had a big opportunity when Manoj Kumar suddenly paused his tracking, but the moment was saved for WolfKnights by Soh Jun Yeng, who slid in courageously. Unfortunately, Soh's calf took the full brunt of Romijn's strike, and he would have to leave play, with Li Ah Kang filling in.
That was about it, save for Tian Yonghang
making it twenty-five unbroken seasons as a pro, when he entered in the last minute for Chu Xin Lee