Nicolas Marissal was sorely missed as Grilled achieved parity in their all-time record with TTTNW in their 17th competitive meeting, with Maldives No. 17 winger Shiya Shaahee
the breakout player of the day despite Chow Ying Lee
writing himself into the records with a hat-trick by the 25th minute.
It had been thirteen seasons since the last of the sixteen S-League battles between the two, and much has changed since then with the visitors' 38 year-old Danish goalie Kalle Riis the lone holdover from those halcyon days. He would not much enjoy what was going to happen, however, as Shaahee and Chow chose this occasion to rise to the fore.
Shaahee has not featured as much as he would have liked, with just four league starts in the previous seasons, attributable to Grilled's preference for midfield heft given the reliability of their forwards. It was therefore something of a surprise that he got the nod ahead of Gleb Dorogan
for the right midfield slot, but his demonstrated vitality will surely give Niculae Stanca
pause when he picks his next team.
TTTNW tried to shake their tactics up somewhat by shifting Xinés Siñeriz and attacking through the middle instead, with heavy midfield support. The trouble was that the Birds were at home and on song, so little of that mattered, and Chow classily lobbed in the first in the 14th minute, after Shaahee slipped the ball inside and Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
sidefooted it on.
Shaahee was simply everywhere, and neither Siñeriz nor skipper Jaafar bin Mahamad could get a handle of him when he killed an ambitious clearance and threaded it between them in a single stride. This left an entire flank exposed, and Chow had an easy finish for his 50th league goal after Shaahee picked him out.
Chow's third was all his own, though, after the visitors' attempt to calm the game down by having their central defenders stroke it between themselves backfired horribly. Chow closed in faster than Jason Chan thought he could, and an attempt to be clever by dragging the ball to his other side was anticipated and exploited by the quicksilver striker.
The visiting defence would barely have a moment's rest after that as Grilled's players descended on them at every opportunity, spurred on by the home faithful, but Chow's attempt at repeating his trick some minutes later ended up cutting Chan down at his knees, resulting in a deserved yellow. That could have helped Shaahee go through for the fourth, however, and only his third ever in the league for the Birds.
With their contributions and the result secure, the duo toned it down for the second half, leaving it to their teammates to carry the torch. This Abdul bin Jantan
did in the 56th minute, picking the right time to come in from the left and clip a gently curling strike into the far corner.
There appeared that there would be no end to the goals, when Tian Yonghang
rose highest to nod in the sixth from an enticing Shaahee cross; there would however be just the one more, when TTTNW's homegrown centreback Goo Soon Chao replied in kind after Siñeriz found space behind Ling Fuquan
, to Edmund Kryus
Grilled should have had at least one more when bin Jantan floated it in to Mohd Safri, who inexplicably had been left standing free right on the penalty spot, but the star for some reason chose to attack it with an acrobatic overhead effort rather than just bring it down. That said, it did go close, shaving the crossbar.
The match ended with Shaahee receiving a standing ovation from sections of the crowd after being taken off for Alex Fonseca
, and the prolonged embrace and pats from the head coach should mean that he can be confident about his future prospects at the club.