Tian Tucks In
The Birds dug themselves out of their funk in the best manner possible, with a thumping 8-0 home win over CharlesCheesePie that restored them to the top of the table. A dazzling opening eleven minutes saw them three up, and the Pies never looked like staying in it after that, crashing to their fourth consecutive defeat against Grilled.
There were few indications that Grilled would bank their largest league victory since the 10-0 series against SHEV UNITED ten seasons ago, and the biggest in Division Two since the 9-0 against a nine-man Shining Lights twelve seasons past. Pies had brought the exact same eleven that frustrated TTTNW 2-1, and with gamewinner and national star Zulharisan bin Mahmud excelling in the false nine position for Singapore recently, a repeat was not out of the questions, especially against a Grilled side scraping for a win.
Grilled had not been clicking for some time, and coach Niculae Stanca
was left to freshen his tactics up by dropping lu Zunwen
for the recently-expressed talents of Shiya Shaahee
wide right, and ordering Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
and Chow Ying Lee
to hang high and keep the beefy Pies backline honest.
The commentators had expected a cautious, tetchy opening, and for the match to likely be decided by a lone moment of wizardry, and they certainly hadn't counted on it happening in the second minute. But there it was, Ling Fuquan
had burst to the right edge of the penalty area, and cracked an absolute stunner past former Venezuelan national custodian Javier Mesa and into the top left corner.
If the Pies were thinking that that was a one-off, they were to be horribly disappointed, as Shaahee justified his inclusion with constant feints that left veteran wingback Iskandar Zulkernain bin Saidi with twisted blood. It was perhaps the worst possible matchup for Iskandar, who has always been more at home against bigger and slower forwards, and he was left lunging at empty space when Shaahee danced past him and fed Tian Yonghang
for the second, with five minutes on the clock.
Misery piled on for the travellers, as main hope Zulharisan pulled up clutching his hamstring on their first serious foray, which was followed by Woon Shun An
getting through for 3-0, and then Seytek Djekshenkulov
scattering defenders like tenpins from a floated corner to make it four before the twenty minute mark.
The away stands were ominously silent by the time Abdul bin Jantan
huffed and puffed to make his way though a downhearted Pies central defence for the fifth in the 30th minute, as although their head coach János Daday had been gesturing on the sidelines for most of the time, it was having little effect against the resurgent Birds, who looked dangerous every time they passed the half-way line with the ball.
There were options on the bench, but with the match beyond saving by half-time, Daday decided on damage limitation with wide forwards Pascual José Amado and Manfredo Noriega both told to drop back. It was a wise moving seeing as to how neither of them had gotten more than a few touches in the first half, which put paid to any hopes of exploiting Grilled's famously empty flanks.
35 year-old defender Yap Loong Dong was the first to go, after he began to display signs of heat exhaustion, and Turkish centreback Çetin Pursak inherited the unenviable task of keeping Mohd Safri under his heel. That he did for awhile, but nobody had thought of Tian Yonghang
, who ghosted in to slip Grilled's sixth goal past Mesa in the 65th minute.
The next change was Noriega for a less-than enthusiastic Quirze Sans, who must have felt that there was little chance of building on his two goals against the Birds. Indeed, the Pies' 5-2-3 meant that Grilled were holding possession almost at will, and winger Denis Stevens was the next to run out of gas chasing the ball.
Zulharisan lived up to his credentials as he found an extra gear inside him, and had some in the crowd standing as he weaved his way past four Grilled players in the 79th minute, only to find no available pass. He followed that with a superbly weighted ball with Argentine striker Pascual José Amado at its end, but no consolation was forthcoming as Amado's strike beat Kryus but not the crossbar.
Mesa was taken off for Ioan Diaconescu with five minutes remaining, but that was time enough for Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
to triple his record against the Romanian goalkeeper, heading in a Shaahee cross in the 87th minute, before going all the way from the restart to finalize it at 8-0.