Flat Track Bullies
Hoàng If You Like It
The Birds extricated themselves from a bad patch with a thumping home triumph over Geylang's FC Pires, unfortunately before a sparse audience thanks to absolutely miserable weather. On the other hand, their diehards were certainly not after exquisite footy by this point, and the five-nil outcome was just what the doctor ordered.
Now out of all cup competition, Hovaness Noubaryan
could pick his strongest side without distraction, of course sans
the suspended Islom Davlatov
. Moey Xin Seng
was welcomed back to the fold with great fanfare after long weeks out, and he lined up next to Vikram Mudaliar
in a potent-seeming Grilled attack.
The opening goal would come from an entirely unexpected direction, though. While Grilled were, as expected, pressurizing the Pires lines with fair intensity, the visitors had pace of their own in Farid Sofian and Devin Wu at the back, and it was moreover not a day for running anyway.
Nobody told that to Hoàng Trung Quá
, it appeared, as the Vietnamese defender embarked on a slow and painful-looking slog towards goal. Wong Wee Kok, who had picked Hoàng up midway through it, offered only false assurance as he bounced ineffectively off the Grilled Number Two several times, and by the time Sofian recognized the danger, Hoàng had already laid a grounder beyond Jackson Truong.
That strike certainly won't be recalled for its beauty, but the home supporters appreciated it immensely nonetheless. There was then some loud grumbling heard after referee Darren Sumner let Ang Tze Lee off the hook for a crazy challenge on Yuta Nakakita
, which should have been a straight red had it connected. Yuta reacted admirably, and the team's level-headedness told again in the 28th minute, when Moey Xin Seng
showed the fans what they had been missing with a tenacious dribble and goal.
Grilled were clearly in the ascendancy here, and it was only sheer luck that kept them from immediately adding a third, with Cyril Künzler
's clever reverse from an indirect free-kick sticking in the mud just before it reached its intended target. The Birds would be played out by their own pitch yet again 37 minutes in, as Vikram Mudaliar
stuttered right as Florus Romijn
's cross arrived. Although he managed to rescue a shot, that was enough to throw it off the mark.
Chu Xin Lee
would replace the blameless Yuki Irie
after the break, while the coaching staff evidently decided to ease Moey back into his job, as he was taken off for Chan Ze Han
. Hoàng Trung Quá
was entrusted with the armband once more, and he definitely lived up to the responsibility; shortly after Yuta Nakakita
found the post with a rare effort, Hoàng found his second goal by not being afraid to pull the trigger after picking off Mohammad Ramli Saliman
There were thankfully no hard feelings on Vikram Mudaliar
's part, despite that ball clearly being meant for him, and the 22 year-old new signing would have it made up for him in due course. A constant threat to the extent that Kobus Zengerink was booked for required harassment, Mudaliar's brillance could no longer be denied in the 62nd minute, when he showed Sofian a clean pair of heels, before slamming a fourth in with aplomb.
Mudaliar's maiden league goal for Grilled Birds was also his milestone fiftieth in his professional career, and the supporters were definitely aware of that, going by how they instantly unfurled a huge banner celebrating his accomplishments. He was genuinely touched, going by his reaction, and flirted with a booking for leaping into the stands to join in. Luckily for him, the match officials weren't entirely unsentimental.
With the rain letting up slightly, Grilled were incentivized to fix their goal difference up, as FC Pires looked all but resigned to another defeat. Young Dutch forward Zengerink would even gain some recognition from the Grilled fans for his unwavering commitment, which was indubitably a rare quality within the visitors' squad in the second half.
The fifth goal would arrive 69 minutes in, as Florus Romijn
rounded a slowing Wan Arif Khairil to set himself up from the left, while Mudaliar and Chan Ze Han
kept the other defenders busy. That was evidently enough for Noubaryan, as he signalled for his players to conserve their energy right after it went in.