Man Of Two Faces
Whither The Real Safri?
Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
's Jekyll and Hyde condition continued, as he recorded his second friendly hat-trick in a row against South Korean visitors Manchester "Boong" FC. This was also the fourth hat-trick by a Grilled player in six matches, with Chow Ying Lee
and Tian Yonghang
the other achievers.
The match was marked by the appointment of international referee František Vrtilka, a Slovak formerly with the Valencia Hell Devils, in a Hattrick leagues initiative to promote internationalism. He was assisted by Italian Mauro Milana and Spaniard Víctor de Tena, giving the direction of the game a distinctly Continental flavour.
Boong brought along a largely reserve side, with Finnish Number Ten Ville Paljakka a striking exception. In fact, their midfield was composed entirely of greenhorns, with 17 year-old Yong-Hee Son starting only his third match for Boong, with Woo-Jae Lim and German buy Theo Plancke on just their second.
In contrast, Grilled had two former youth internationals directly opposing them, and even if they were forwards by preference, the gulf in experience was overwhelming. It was difficult to tell if this intimidated the visitors, though it might have gone some way towards explaining why they gravitated towards letting loose from distance.
The much-criticised Mohd Safri got off on the wrong foot as he failed to trap on his first touch, but thereafter reverted his true self, that of a merciless poacher. Shiya Shaahee
, passed over again on Sunday, carried on his good citizenry with a touchline-hugging run down the left, and his inside pass after stopping was swept home by the charging Safri.
In a departure from their usual tactics of battering down the opposition centre, Grilled instead worked on directing it wide, and in doing so allowed Ling Fuquan
to indulge freely in his attacking instincts. Ling has drawn much flak for his defensive commitment lately, but looking at the verve with which he bamboozled Dragan Miljanić and earned an assist off Mohd Safri, his true calling might yet be reconsidered.
Ling swung another in on 21 minutes, and Mohd Safri, who by this time was beginning to be regarded in awe by the Boong defence, polished off his third with a crowning header. There was little debate as to how the contest would end, as Paljakka only got more isolated up top, and Tian Yonghang
was unfortunate to hit the post off a corner, before Djan Bacelar
bounced a free-kick past makeshift goalie Oldrich Ettrich, who usually plays as a striker.
Half-time saw the impressive Ling come off for Liang Liyong
, while the less-exciting Pompeo Bellamoli
was replaced by Leong Wan Kang
. Grilled missed Ling's unpredictability down the right, which Walter Ross
however made up to an extent, capping a lung-bursting seventy-yard sprint with a wildly-churning effort that Ettrich barely managed to keep his eyes on.
Bacelar showed nerves of steel to slip a fifth between the goalie's legs in the 76th minute even as tackles came flying in from both sides, while Shaahee earned yet more sympathizers with a flying run to get the sixth with five minutes remaining. It was Tian Yonghang
's turn to leave his scoring boots at home, as he flashed the team's last clear opportunity wide a minute later.