Two Goal Toni
There were few surprises as littlehorse racked up their tenth win of the season to seal the II.2 title, as Grilled were clearly outmatched, what more without core man Moey Xin Seng
. That they managed to take the lead despite that was testament to their raw offensive verve, although it didn't last against the hosts' encompassing superiority.
On a twelve match winning streak beginning with their 2-4 at The Cooking Pot - which included picking up the Sapphire Challenger Cup against Bunnies rivals Oneteamtoplay - there was no indication that a sullen Grilled could rein a rampant littlehorse back in. Their last meeting had seen an Onuţ Drogeanu hat-trick, which the stadium announcers gleefully reminded the adoring fans, when the Romanian defender marched in.
The odds were ridiculously one-sided in littlehorse's, but what happened in the first few minutes didn't quite reflect that; Grilled's attack always had the potential to surprise, and with the home team perhaps a little too overconfident, Chu Xin Lee
saw his chance to make some magic. His innocuous swing at Davlatov's square pass sent the ball flying towards Florus Romijn
entering from the left, but the Belgian winger couldn't get his feet sorted out in time.
The significance of that chance was not lost on the Grilled bench, which collectively went head into hands. littlehorse, now jarred into action, began giving the ball to Tonino Gravagnoli, who created several good openings. It would be Kalki Parvathaneni
who continued his scoring habit against littlehorse, though - sixteen minutes in, he went directly at Drogeanu, who was wary of getting too stuck in within the box. Fulvio Speth got down quickly, but not fast enough for the ensuing shot.
There was much tearing up of betting slips in the stands at that, and although former PRC international Cheng Changshan curled a classy equaliser in some seven minutes later, that didn't do those punters much good. The Birds were still trying hard despite the setback, and Drogeanu possibly overcompensated with a vicious tackle on Parvathaneni, for which he was lucky to stay on. Cyril Künzler
lined the free-kick up, but struck it far too weakly at the goalie.
Rough play would be a characteristic of the rest of the half, with the Birds delivering most of it in their attempt to keep up. Romijn for one didn't seem to do all that he could to keep from flattening Vladimiro Musone in a full-blooded charge on the touchline, and the littlehorse support weren't happy at referee Hendrik-Jan Landzaat's indifference about that incident.
Grilled reached half-time on level terms, if barely, and Hovaness Noubaryan
felt adventurous enough to replace anchor midfielder and acting captain Hoàng Trung Quá
with Chan Ze Han
. On hindsight, it might not have been the best decision, but Chan did enough at the outset to raise Grilled hopes prematurely.
The Birds' hotchpotch defending couldn't last forever, and littlehorse's practised patterns would overrun Grilled's blood-and-thunder about an hour in. There were just too many people in Grilled's penalty area for new skipper Yuta Nakakita
and company to keep track of, and Toni Pirinen saw his chance to fire at the bottom corner. Massoud Dob
was entirely unsighted, and didn't even react before the goal was confirmed.
littlehorse weren't about to leave anything to fortune, and they would keep on swarming Grilled's backline, as Yuta struggled to impose cohesion. Gilbert Webb
was left facing both Poh Cheng Tse and Tonino Gravagnoli as Roberto Brandi intelligently switched play mere two minutes later, and Gravagnoli was left with a clear shot from ten yards, which he made without much trouble.
Grilled's earlier resolve was dissolving rapidly, and there was a distinct lack of leadership as littlehorse strutted their stuff. Yuta was left fighting fires mostly by himself, and Chan Ze Han
wasted too much of his time attempting to kickstart moves that just weren't there.
Künzler's failed breakaway in the 70th minute was all that littlehorse needed fo find a fourth goal, with Brandi again coming cleanly away with the ball down their left. Bilal Mohammad Harun
did prevent the most obvious pass as he closed Pirinen off, but he played He Cunhao onside in doing that, and He proved no less competent a finisher.
It was five in the 84th minute, as Toni Pirinen got past a weary Yuta with sheer speed. Grilled would somehow survive the late piling-on as littlehorse unleashed their unexpended energies, but Florus Romijn
would get himself suspended for the next league match after he - admittedly understandably - fouled Cheng as he went past.