Zhao Introduced Properly
The Birds got past Division Four Woodlands mainstays Leeverbird FC largely down to a superlative masterclass by new arrivee Zhao Jing Wei
, who both opened and closed the scoring, while being quite brilliant in between. The nearly 70000 packed into Leeverbird's Fortress Anfield even grudgingly acknowledged the Singaporean superstar's talents by the end of his display, that saw their side well beaten.
Leeverbirds FC have never really been a Cup team, with the last time they got past this stage coming twelve seasons ago, although a solid 2-0 against Opera Estate Rovers in the third round had some fans hoping. They did have 25 year-old talismanic local hero Liu Yishan, already at 140 career goals, without forgetting goalkeeper Xiao Rui, whose coaching talents have been appropriated by the national team.
Otherwise, they depended on grizzled defenders Heliodor Gołuński and Elio Zordan, the Numbers Two and Three having struck up a good working partnership over several seasons together. They would however encounter a wholly unexpected challenge, as Zhao was fielded in the hole for this fixture, some twenty metres advanced from his usual position.
This didn't sit well with Xiao, who did some touching up of his formation when on the field, tasking 40 year-old Raimondo Anspach to shadow Zhao. This wound up a very bad mismatch, however, and in the eighth minute Anspach was unable to do anything at all as Abdul bin Jantan
made to move inside before sending it on the outside for Zhao to zoom in.
's body of contributions continued increasing as he made the right flank a troubled place for the Leeverbird defence too, and supplied an assist for Djan Bacelar
in the 18th minute. Liang Liyong
then skied one, before excitement bubbled over in the Fortress as Liu Yishan went by himself between Ling and Madaini. Edmund Kryus
would disappoint the expectant crowd then, batting away Liu's ferocious strike.
Ling appeared to have learnt little from his suspension served just three days back, as he picked up a fourth yellow card in five matches for knocking into Radovan Grimm. Fortunately for him, Chow Ying Lee
's goal following that made most forget the incident nearly as soon as it happened, Zhao creating it with a magical swivelling lay-off.
Grimm did pull one back for the Leeverbirds with winger Murali Adabala making good use of width to swing one in, but their advance was stopped in its tracks within minutes, Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
also benefitting from Zhao's largesse, though he had it all to do with a difficult overhead kick.
Xiao, who had been constantly trying to redeploy his defenders to maximum effect, could only recognize that he was beaten by this point, a realisation that was rubbing in by Ling some way into the second half. Shaahee had the run of the right flank by now, and Ling only had to swing his boot at the right time to hit the target.
Anspach's miserable day came to an end as he ran himself into the ground by 77 minutes, necessitating Colombian Jorge Alberto Garzón to fill in. Garzón could do little more as he lost Liang Liyong
at a corner, but this time Xiao rose to the fore.
Ling was then taken off for Walter Ross
to come in, and the Austrian immediately delivered a cheeky free kick to Zhao, who unhesitatingly banged in his second. He would not get a full bite at a hat-trick as Luis Alcántara decided to pull him for Gleb Dorogan
, but it was clear that Zhao considered it a job done well as he came off in high spirits.