The new-look Spartans would not have the best of introductions to the big leagues as they got dismantled 7-0 by the Birds, although to be fair Grilled probably had a better record than most against them, with the hosts' best result being a five-all draw here at The Kherubim two seasons ago.
Quite a few of the travelling fans were expressedly there just to sight the Chicken Wings' legendary S$2 million boy Pek Chin Wan, but to their great disappointment, he was not even on the bench. They did
spot Reggie Wing, cousin of current academy playmaker Oliver Wing, but being in goal as he was, it would be a painful time to come.
Among the remaining players, it was left to former JUtd forward Foong Kian Puay to scrounge for goals, in the 21 year old's last match for the club. Adithya Joshi, formerly of Team of Semipro, skippered the side at his less-prefered wingback position, and with Chow Ying Lee
being his direct matchup, Joshi had his work cut out for him.
Despite Stanca's assertions, Grilled did arrive with a slightly unfamiliar lineup as compared to what would have been expected had SpartanSG been at full strength, with a strange-looking midfield consisting of Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
and Low Aik Jia
alongside regular Zhao Jing Wei
. There were some whispers that it was a penalty of sorts for Mohd Safri for getting sent off against United, but as the Birds star soon demonstrated, he had merit of his own even there.
It took no longer than eleven minutes, as Mohd Safri made a point of drilling into the Spartan backline after receiving it just ahead of the centre circle. A short race later, a classy chip ensured that Wing's clean sheet hopes were dashed.
Chow Ying Lee
and Shiya Shaahee
then added numbers two and three with rather guileless runs through the hardworking but inexperienced defence, although Wing would show promise by recovering quickly to push away a tricky header from Chow before the half was out.
If his scoring Cup debut was brilliant, it was a far less stellar shift by Low today, as he looked off the pace at times, frequently being out-thought by the wily Goh Ho Hao. These minor victories were not nearly enough to keep Grilled at bay, and the home team had to rely on Wing again in the 50th minute, to dive for Qassem Madaini
's venomous free-kick just in time.
It was therefore too much to expect the overworked goalkeeper to bail his side out again when Tian Yonghang
cut himself loose and brought it into the box, and soon after that Madaini banged in a fifth, sweeping in from the right wing. The Saudi veteran appeared to be enjoying himself at leftback, making more overlaps than he had in the entirety of last season.
Mohd Safri then completed his apology with a busy little play that forced a slightly overawed Duncan Tang off the ball, and proceeding to slice it home. Tian wrapped the one-sided affair up a minute later, speeding on Zhao's through ball to stroke it beyond Wing.