Shining Lights reintroduced themselves to the Birds with a mighty wallop, as the eleventh competitive match between them, and the first in the top flight, ended with a 4-0 drubbing at the sun-drenched Blackout Arena.
There were hints of the ensuing collapse in Grilled's tame loss to Villains a couple of days ago, and the initial exchanges confirmed these suspicions. Gone were the broad thrusts so frequently seen against Pearl Divers, even as the Birds sought to shore up their possession by deploying Zhao Jing Wei
as a false winger. Lights had a solid game-plan, and though they relied on just the one forward, their Czech Number Eight Jindřich Ženíšek more than made up for it with his clever runs from the middle.
Zhao, for all his leadership, looked a bad fit out wide, and Shining Lights coped all too easily with the Birds' frontline. There were next to no serious attempts from the visitors, who were lucky to escape in the 21st minute when Faraz Balouch's superb free-kick bent away from Wong Tian Han
, only to hit the joint between the crossbar and the post.
The tight, technical struggle continued, as Grilled were unable to wrestle their way out of the hosts' suffocating 4-5-1. Inevitably, Lights would take the lead, with former Venezuelan youth winger Aroldo Burgos flying down the left and delivering a great cross for local defender Idris Kamil. Balouch would then come close again, but this time Wong bought Grilled some time with a world-class save.
Sadly, Grilled Birds would not rise to the challenge, and started the second half even less impressively than the first. It was not that Lights were invulnerable, with Burgos for one making a couple of ill-considered attempts to dribble out of defence, but Grilled were simply not alert enough to grasp these openings.
They would then be fooled by a fairly routine free-kick variation, as a dummy run by Balouch was followed by a short pass wide to Othmane Majdawi. It appeared that the Grilled wall were overthinking it, as they waited for the reverse ball that never came; instead, Majdawi simply ran it freely into the six-yard box, before putting it neatly past Wong.
What was more disappointing than being two down was Grilled's muted response, and on this day, even Tian Yonghang
's famed motivational skills failed; instead, it was Ženíšek who would capture the imagination, and he raised his contribution from merely excellent to exceptional in the last half an hour.
His demonstration began with a no-nonsense headed conversion from a corner, which was achieved over the interference of Clément Meyer
. A few minutes after that, he really should have gotten it in after trading a brilliant one-two with Majdawi, but cut it too close to the goalpost after wrongfooting Wong Tian Han
That didn't get Ženíšek down, however, and despite suffering a very unpopular tap to the leg from Woon Shun An
, his touch remained wholly unaffected. Seventy-seven minutes in, he cushioned a forty-yarder from Nikola Aranđelović barely breaking stride, and slung it straight into the roof of the net for the fourth.
This did at last seem to spark something in the beaten Birds, but the response they finally mustered was less than adequate. It came down to Chow Ying Lee
again banking on his near-unmatched speed over the last ten metres, but this time Zhao's through ball was just that slightly overhit.
There would be no consolation today as the mostly-untroubled Uwe-Hellmuth Ledin made a magnificent stop in the 83rd minute off Lee Lee Hao
's powerful right-footed cannon, as Lights earned a complete victory over their visitors.