Cyril Penalty Hat-trick
There was no slowing down the Birds, as they surged to a seventh straight league win, this an 8-0 home dismantling of Real Balmoral. It wasn't even close to one of Grilled's better days either, but that hardly made a difference, against a Balmoral that had not exactly improved themselves in the off-season.
Real Balmoral had held Grilled 4-4 the last they met, but that was with the Birds having a cup final in their heads; moreover, Italian goalkeeper-skipper Gianpaolo Pezzoni was gone, for S$11.7 million to FC Brainless Berlin, as were former mainstays like Manne Dehlfeldt and Fausto Lasagni. Their replacements weren't quite of the same class, and with Fabian Harnisch and Michel Battaglia nursing chronic injuries, it was a bare-bones Balmoral that turned up at The Cooking Pot.
Belgian head coach Augustijn Guibert's only solution was for a heavy press, even if it wasn't something that his men were equipped to keep up for long. They did survive an uncomfortable twenty minutes, before Zoltán Koller was booked for a calculated foul on Islom Davlatov
; it didn't work, as Florus Romijn
detached himself from under Billy Gustavsson's watchful eyes, to get on the end of the free-kick for 1-0.
The visitors' resolve remained intact for now, and they continued giving personalized attention to Grilled's players, a task made more straightforward by the one-to-one correspondence in positions. That lasted until about the 37th minute, when Chu Xin Lee
made full use of Moey Xin Seng
's impromptu screen, and burrowed a second goal through the mass of defenders.
All pretense at maintaining a point would drop after Kalki Parvathaneni
's deflected lob made in it after 41 minutes, and more bad luck would go the visitors' way, after Aliaksandar Pihanovich had a free-kick smashed into his hand, with his back turned. Cyril Künzler
went on to convert from the spot, and there would yet be a Chu goal and Óscar Buj yellow card to come, before the break.
came on for the underworked Yuta Nakakita
for the next half, with Grilled eager to lay on the hurt. Chan Ze Han
ran straight at Petre Canache in the 49th minute, and the Romanian centreback thought that he had handled the threat adequately, with a stiff shoulder-barge. That turned out too violent for referee Jaffer Haidar, though, and Künzler went the same way - to the left - for his second penalty.
The Birds were not yet satisfied, with the over 70000-strong home crowd baying for blood; Islom Davlatov
was only too happy to oblige, and after a few false starts, his interchanging with the strikers came off in the 62nd minute. Canache nearly recovered in time with a leg block, but was a fraction too late as Davlatov's grounder found the far post, before rattling in.
And then, there was a third penalty. The visitors couldn't really complain about this one, with Vikram Mudaliar
clearly tripped when clear on goal. Haidar kept his cards in his pocket with Pihanovich already on a yellow, or it might have been too cruel. Künzler would switch it up this time, and in doing so bested young Polish custodian Lech Szczutkowski in their battle of wits.
would call for calm after the excitable Bhavya Panigrahi
sent Koller off with a gashed calf as Real Balmoral tried for a consolation, which led to Abdul Rasyid Naim's introduction. Ivan Antolí took over as their set-piece taker, and cooked up a surprise in the 76th minute with Elia Amorese; his attempt would be blocked, however, and Chu would come close to his first hat-trick in ages - but not quite.