Four Too Late
With their season in shambles, the Birds put it all together out of nowhere, to flatten the visiting Shining Lights 4-0 in one of the most comprehensively dominant outings of their current S-League stint. The Lights, who had defeated Grilled in their last four meetings, registered not a single shot on target throughout, to the wonderment of all who attended.
On paper, the Lights were due to walk this one - not only had they thumped Grilled 5-1 just last week, all they had to contend with was a team on the low, and had been completely outclassed by Be Champions FC in the cup. Not only that, they kept with the 4-5-1 that the Birds had so much trouble breaking through last Sunday, which did not give their remaining supporters in the half-full The Cooking Pot much assurance.
As expected, it was slow going for the hosts, but Shining Lights were for once clearly not at their sharpest either. Though Grilled continued to be constrained by Kum Nie Tong's marshalling, they at least did not have to contend with much at their own end either, with the Lights resorting to spraying ineffective long balls at Othmane Majdawi. While Gene Filippone
remained out, Ang Leong Kum
's prospenity to crowd Majdawi was more than enough to cut his supply lines entirely.
A boring deadlock ensued for the snooze-worthy first half-hour, before Grilled began to pick up the pace. Hariharan Prabhu
, a surprise pick over Low Aik Jia
on the left, overlapped former Venezuelan youth international winger Aroldo Burgos in the 29th minute, and advanced at a speed that would have done Low proud. Not only that, he made the right decision in laying it on to Zhu Changchun
, who however hastily buried it in the side-netting.
That near-miss signalled the beginning of Grilled's supremacy, though, and they began to really turn the thumbscrews. Lights were still maintaining their shape, but were being pushed precipitously back, leaving all too much room for Grilled's wingers to maneuver in. 35 minutes in, Wong Ping Shun
forwarded it inside without recognizable opposition, and Lee Lee Hao
duly beat Felipe Velarde by stabbing at the cross early.
Intended target Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
might have been aggrieved in his younger days, but this tempered version was more relieved than anything. In any case, the loyal Number Eighteen would get in on the goal action before half-time too. Idris Kamil had drifted rather too wide to counter the now-rampant Prabhu, which left a gaping hole in the line that Mohd Safri gleefully filled, before scoring from.
This got the formerly-turgid crowd going at last, helped by Mohd Safri leaping over the hoardings to celebrate with the fans, which was not something he was known for. Those fortunate enough to be seated on the bottom level in that section reciprocated in kind, returning some joy to a stadium that has been seeing little enough of it these few months.
There would be more of that to come, as Grilled carried their control over to the second half. It was not quite a matter of ball possession, which Shining Lights shared almost evenly, but more of what they did with it - the Birds actually looked like they had a plan out there, while their opponents were left with relaying it to star wingman Claude Caron whenever they could. Sadly for them, though, the overworked Caron was moving sluggishly, and was shut down tidily by Woon Shun An
more often than not.
Home captain Tian Yonghang
then brought something special to the party, as he returned the ball following a cleared corner. Though Jindřich Ženíšek was mindful enough to close him down as Tian positioned himself for the descending ball, he would wind up being nutmegged by Tian on the turn, which brought a huge roar from the stands. Tian capped it with a tremendous strike with his other foot that gave the defenders no time to react, and which flashed straight into the far top corner.
It was a goal destined for the weekly highlight reels, and the titantron operators were only too eager to replay it from multiple angles during any lull in the match thereafter, to the delight of the home support. The Lights contingent, in their customary white and black, weren't enjoying it as much, and French head coach Théo Bossy looked at a loss in his dugout.
What could have been a perfect day for Grilled was marred when Lee Lee Hao
limped off with a pulled thigh muscle in the 72nd minute, but on the other hand, incoming substitute Clément Meyer
would inject urgency back into the Birds' game. He played a major role in creating a channel for Hariharan Prabhu
in the 79th, which concluded with Woon Shun An
sweeping in the Birds' fourth from a goalmouth melee scramble.
Majdawi cut a forlorn figure at the other end as his side resolved to cut their losses, and Grilled were just about sated, anyway. By the time Rashid bin Ahmad
took over from Ling Fuquan
two minutes from time, the game was being played at walking pace, and veteran Romanian referee Bucurel Amarandei saw no reason to prolong Shining Lights' suffering any longer than absolutely necessary.