There was no light in sight for a crumbling Birds team, who were a picture of helplessness as they got comprehensively outplayed at The Acidic City - and by a Chemistry side nowhere near their best. The limitations of Grilled's style, already stretched to breaking point after the departure or retirement of its top proponents, were made completely manifest against the hosts' straightforward counterstrategy.
Then again, a 1-4 home loss to the same hardly boded well for today, but the fact was that Djan Bacelar
simply didn't have other cards to play; while Yuki Irie
remained under medical observation, it was questionable how much he would have contributed to a pretty decent midfield. Nakakita, Saliman and Muthyala might be a step below what was available in Grilled's pomp maybe six seasons past, but they were certainly not that far out of it.
The problem rested - unfortunately - in every other department. Up front, Tian's fading stamina had forced Moey Xin Seng
into a starring role, and while undoubtedly high on potential, the 20 year-old is not of the class to carry a team just yet. Ang Leong Kum
and Hariharan Prabhu
were hardly natural wingers, while the defence and goalkeeping ranks have been sadly reduced.
Having just made their measure of Grilled's capabilities, Chemistry knew what they had to do, and a quick start moreover gave the Birds little option but to press ahead come what may. Rinor Isufi
's fourth minute rush got stopped prematurely on the wing by Willy Haberstich, and it became clear that Richie Yoon was in his element, as he ripped through two defenders to get onto the inbound pass.
Whether or not the Birds had learnt anything from last week, they certainly weren't able to adapt properly. Observers could detect the outlines of their measures easily enough - try to hold onto possession, play a cautious percentage game - but the trouble was that there were simply too many weak points all over.
There was a brief spark leading into the 14th minute, as Moey's initiative carved open the Chemistry backline, against all odds. Some improvised give-and-take between Gennary Dvorak and Ang Leong Kum
saw the former come away with the ball with only Tommaso Petretta to beat, but he probably accorded the goalkeeper too much respect, and slammed his shot onto the crossbar.
Grilled simply couldn't catch a break here, and the rebound was swiftly transferred over to the fleet-footed Anton Veiderma some distance up the right flank. There was little fancy about the Finn's rush down the line, but no-one in the Grilled camp was equipped to even delay him. Gene Filippone
did all he could, but Janusz Kukieła staked out his blind spot to provide the finish.
Two-nil had the air of an impossible mountain to climb, even at this stage, and there was a desperation in the Birds' game that was hard to miss. Having consistently orchestrated games to their desire not so long ago, it was almost sad to watch them take on the mien of an outmatched underdog; Yuta Nakakita
exemplified this attitude, with a lunge in on Kukieła that would never have happened had he had confidence in his defence. The ensuing yellow card was the price that had to be paid.
It was not that Nakakita's fears were unfounded either, going by how easily Vincenzo Ornaghi strode through three minutes after the restart, as Hoàng Trung Quá
seemed caught in two minds. Grilled diehards could not help but remark on how Wong Tian Han would probably have been quicker off his line, and although the jury may still be out on Valentin Batâr
, the new custodian has shown little sign of being able to gail Grilled out with heroic blinders.
The Birds didn't roll over at least, with the forwards in particular doggedly - if ineffectively - plowing lonely furrows. Their old spirit would come forth for an instant in the 59th minute, with a lightning series of ambitious passes that woke the stadium up. Dvorak dropped it off with Mohammad Ramli Saliman
, who was in a superior position, but the midfielder played it too safe, and sidefooted it tamely wide.
There would be no third chances for the sorry Birds, as Chemistry moved up the gears smoothly. They didn't even have to hurry overly, being content to continue tiring Grilled out with measured pokes. Richie Yoon's second in the 68th arrived almost as a matter of course, and Bulgarian forward Delyan Velinski - entered as a substitute two minutes later - closed with a fine speculative effort in the 74th.
The horse had long escaped from the stables, but there was no way that Tian Yonghang
could hide this one out. After a prolonged discussion with his head coach, he would enter right after Chemistry's fifth goal. While he bore no illusions about salvaging the result, the Grilled captain would at least ensure no further humiliation.