The Be Champions FC squad that arrived at The Cooking Pot was nowhere near its pomp, but despite being forced to start with just nine men as an administrative penalty, they retained enough of the old swagger to make a fine spectacle of it. Decorated former Danish international striker Falke Hvid, just turned 35, exemplified their past glories best, as he came up with a hat-trick despite adverse circumstances.
It was no overstatement to say that BCFC weren't what they once were, with most of their stars gone, as they relegated last season after ten straight campaigns as either S-League winners or runners-up. There was, of course, the historic Hattrick Masters title to take into account too. Other than Hvid, however, what they were left with was mostly a 40 year-old Arnold Pang, together with the equally-aged Leshchinskiy and Aydınel. Evidently, they had not played too much emphasis on renewal, and head coach Mirko Mirković was left holding the non-existent baby.
As the Brazilians might say, their jersey nonetheless carried an immense weight, and the Birds were made to pay for taking it lightly. Gilbert Webb
was eight years Hvid's junior, but belatedly discovered in the 14th minute that the Dane's acceleration over ten yards hadn't faded much from when he was puncturing world-class defences. That was all it took to draw Massoud Dob
out, and Hvid finished with practised ease into the corner, opening as he had in the Cup two seasons ago.
The Birds were at least quick to respond with Vikram Mudaliar
being no slowpoke either at the other end, and Chan Ze Han
grabbed the lead in the 24th, as he ran eagerly onto Florus Romijn
's stop-start-pass down the left. Hvid got back on the goalscoring immediately, however, as Pang found him with a diagonal pass, for a combination that had shredded so many teams.
BCFC were chugging along in a way that no team with a two-man disadvantage had a right to, and it was not until the end of the half approached, that Grilled finally managed to parlay their numerical superiority into concrete returns. It was Kalki Parvathaneni
who made the announcement, as he relied on a delightful first touch to take Aydınel out of the equation, before just about clipping it past Walter Pinilla with his second.
A flurry of attacks saw Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Moey Xin Seng
put Grilled 5-2 up by the break, but if they thought they were in the clear, Hvid had other ideas. The rest did BCFC's outnumbered players a world of good, and they put together an astonishingly slick sequence of passes in the 50th, to set Hvid up with a hanging ball. Hoàng and Webb both tried to get to it, but Hvid had claimed the ideal position, and his header would crash off the far post and in.
This was about as lethal a demonstration of pure striking as The Cooking Pot had witnessed for years, and large sections of the home support could do nothing but applaud Hvid - which was also easier to do when one remained two goals ahead, mind. The clapping came far more naturally when it was Kalki doing to scoring, of course, as it was when he redirected a Cyril Künzler
cross over a leaping Pinilla on the hour.
BCFC had made defending their priority now, and Pang would draw on his experience to cut Moey's attempted assist for Chan out, from a 66th minute free-kick routine. The game was always going against them, however, for all of Gleb Potapov's efforts at maintaining shape. Islom Davlatov
would barge through in the 76th, to make it seven for the Birds.
seemed to think this good enough, as he signalled for the Birds to enter a holding pattern, also likely due to Kalki picking up an unnecessary booking. By the time Tian Yonghang
, Yuki Irie
and Yee Jian Hui
were sent on, the visitors had more or less accepted the inevitable too.