Tian Finds Feet
In a departure from usual friendly practice, Niculae Stanca
decided that his first team needed more game time to gel, and the unfortunate casualties were five-time Division Four champions Heroes of Montenegro, whose side, composed mostly of reserves, found no joy against Grilled's full might.
The spectators were not told of Stanca's team selection until the starting whistle, at which there was a brief intake of breath as extremely familiar faces began streaming out of the tunnel. Heroes were not completely without star power either, as Kazakh forward Nurdulat Abil'gazin, widely considered one his country's finest in his age group, was seen warming-up, but wound up taking his place on the bench.
The sum of raw ability was rather less prevalent in Heroes' midfield, though, especially given that they played only two men there, and Larsen and Šajevas were completely unable to stem the flow. After a few shots tested the waters, Qassem Madaini
put a free-kick past Josep Creus, whose usual position is wingback, to sound the bell on the proceedings.
Abdul bin Jantan
, fresh off scoring in the league on Sunday, drew attention to his goal-scoring potential as he found space despite being surrounded by defenders to add a well-thought second. Sensing the game slipping beyond their grasp, Larsen tried to go it alone and seemed to have a shout for a free-kick after he went over from contact by Lin Jungui
, but referee Ariel Justicia had a good view of the incident, and chose to book Larsen for simulation.
The Heroes were hemmed further and further in as the match went on, and Zhu Changchun
's easy finish after inserting himself in an unmarked spot was followed by a courageous stop by Creus off a painful Chow thunderbolt. Bravery would count for nothing for what followed, though, as Grilled's speed king hurdled Nemanja Marelić and generously centered for Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
to tap in. The favour was returned almost instantaneously, with Chow crashing in a fifth, even as Heroes battled on with Toni Niemi insisting on continuing after a hard fall.
The massacre continued unabated in the second half, with Abdul bin Jantan
closing in on his first hat-trick for Grilled as he slotted in a second in the 52nd minute, and began to get into some extremely advanced positions. He had a good shot at achieving this milestone two minutes later, bearing down on Creus at speed, but chose the correct option for the team and passed to Tian Yonghang
, who was grateful for breaking his duck.
Heroes, despite the game surely being beyond them at this stage, were good enough to give the supporters their moneys' worth as they used up their substitutions around the 60th minute. The entire strikeforce was replaced, with Abil'gazin a much-anticipated newcomer. However, he was soon reduced to trying to chase the ball down, which had little effect as Tian, with confidence restored, retrieved the ball from a block to make it 8-0.
That was good enough for Stanca, who motioned for his players to take things down a peg and reserve energy for the Sunday game, but Madaini kept enough about him still to bury a second free-kick before the end.