Spoils Of War
McCleary Makes History
Grilled Birds suffered the heaviest defeat in their 44 season-long history, an 0-8 wipeout by United Warrior Team that will long live in infamy. 28 year-old Scottish forward Jordan McCleary headed the execution with two hat-tricks, himself smashing Hannes-Noah Reinicke's longstanding individual record of four against the Birds with Yew Tea, in a virtuoso that left the visiting suport dumbfounded long before the end.
Given that this was a bottom-table clash against two teams still finding their feet, most observers expected little more than a messy struggle. Of course, Warriors arguably had looked the more competitive in their slender 2-1 away defeat to Pearl Divers last weekend, with McCleary's unbridled persistence earning him two late cards, as he tried to save the day for the Warriors. He might not have managed it then, but as it turned out, his magic had all been saved up for this day.
Only three minutes were needed for McCleary to start the day, as Venezuelan speedster Ignacio Maldonado beat Low Aik Jia
at his own game down the right, and McCleary read his cross perfectly to head home. There was more of the same nineteen minutes in, as an advancing Maldonado again proved faster than a retreating Low, and McCleary was again in exactly the right spot to place it between Wong Tian Han
This had Djan Bacelar
visibly irritated, and the Brazilian coach was seen to uncharacteristically heckle Low from the sidelines, which the Grilled winger clearly didn't take well. That didn't have the intended effect either, as the Birds defence then let Robert Malik through all too tamely on the Warriors' next attack. Gene Filippone
could only look on as Clément Meyer
unwittingly blocked his path to the Austrian, resulting in a laughable third goal.
Nothing was going right for Grilled, with Tian Yonghang
's urgent ministrations falling on deaf ears. It was thus hardly a shock when McCleary finished up his hat-trick in the 29th minute with a slick grounder lashed in off the far post, but it would get seriously ugly after he then zoomed unobstructed down the right to make it 5-0.
That got Wong Tian Han
, quite understandably, extremely upset at the lack of protection he was being provided, and Gene Filippone
and Low Aik Jia
bore the brunt of his lecture. Low, already on tenterhooks, responded by going face-to-face with Wong and coming back with some strong words of his own, and it took Gene Filippone
and Zhao Jing Wei
running up from the dugout to separate the two before it deteriorated further.
The home fans were only too happy to egg them on, but after the situation had gotten under control, Grilled did manage some decent football for the final third of the first half. Unfortunately, Ján Reviľák was in his element at the back, and he dealt with the couple of crosses that were meant for Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
with pointed ease.
There would be no reprive in the second half either, and McCleary again took just three minutes to grace it with a goal. This time, it was local national winger Xie Chi Huat who powered past Wong Ping Shun
on the left, but there was no mistaking McCleary's sheer genius as he made short shrift of Ling Fuquan
's close marking, to put in his fifth of the day. Wong Tian Han
took his time picking it out of the net, and few of the Grilled players seemed like they were eager to continue.
There was hope for a consolation as the Birds gathered their efforts for a concerted move down the left side, and Low Aik Jia
, one of the few Birds players exhibiting more than a sliver of fight, saw his chance in the 54th minute. Maldonado was not the busiest of defenders either, and Low had all the time to line up a netburster from outside the box. However, it would only shake the crossbar, and Carlos Rufach slid in to knock it behind before Chow Ying Lee
The television cameras were trained on the Grilled stands and bench every so often by now, and the supporters' stony faces were mirrored among the substitutes. Hariharan Prabhu
looked intense while Rinor Isufi
appeared completely disinterested, and head coach Djan Bacelar
, who had long since given up trying to direct from the sidelines, was unreadable.
It was definitely Jordan McCleary's day, and his appetite clearly had not yet been sated, from how he kept switching up with the equally-active Malik. Zhu Changchun
attempted to take him from behind in the 67th minute, but it was probably for the best that the Scotsman avoided the wild tackle - which could well have been a sending-off - in any case. Wong Tian Han
leapt at the swirling strike, but got only the barest of touches on what would be McCleary's 88th career goal.
The UWT fans were on their feet and singing non-stop by this point, calling for an eighth, as the Grilled players barely kept up appearances. Xie was tearing it up down the left side, and Czech midfielder Jáchym Vedral could not help but answer the fans' call in the 73rd minute, with a delicate finish from close up.
As in the first half, the last fifteen minutes saw the Warriors draw back some, but this time the Birds were hardly even interested in advancing. Gene Filippone
was only too happy to go off for Rashid bin Ahmad
just before the end, which referee Lionel Pigache understandingly blew for on the dot.