Grilled Birds were unstoppable as they razed FC Barca Singapore at the Camp Nou Singapore for seven goals, although in fairness, this was against a squad that Finnish gaffer Aleksi Harmoinen had gutted; they had let no fewer than twelve regulars leave in the past week, amongst them notable veterans such as Krystian Wiatrak, Christoph Kolla, and French forward Saloum Ba. Loyal club servants such as Liow Kok Aik and Mok Tze Seng were not spared the cull either, as they were sent off to see out their career in Germany and Portugal respectively.
From the over S$52 million in gross receipts from these sales, Harmoinen would dole out close to S$40 million on just four newcomers: the pair of Guo Congmin and Li Ruochao from Jiangsu club tufouqinqin2012, and midfielders Chai Roongrueng and Alessandro Orazi, all around 26 years of age. All would feature today, with Harmoinen inserting himself into central midfield, but it was evident that Barca were playing it by ear in attack and on the wings, with their still-raw trainees called upon to do a job.
While Eren Serpin
must have known about Barca's top-to-bottom remodelling, he wasn't about to take any chances just yet, and held nothing back in his selection of the starting XI. Moey Xin Seng
remained on the bench, with Kalki Parvathaneni
moved into the frontlines and Chan Ze Han
dropping into midfield, as the Birds basically kept with the personnel that had worked miracles in the cup final. The differences between these sets of players were impossible to hide, as the hosts barely knew their positions defending the first corner awarded against them in the fourth minute, to which Bernie Egan
would eventually shove in unceremoniously.
If any Fringeheads supporters were wishing for Barca to do them a favour here, any such thoughts must have soon been dashed, as they showed no indication of being able to contain Grilled - and, frankly, it was always too much of an ask, given what they had to work with. The 37 year-old Harmoinen could be lauded for his giving it his utmost as a stopper, but that only gets one so far against Chan Ze Han
, who picked Vikram Mudaliar
out for his ninth league goal of the season, right before the tenth minute.
The observant commentator would note Massoud Dob
seemingly limping slightly after taking a big goal-kick later on, but this would swiftly be overlooked, as the Birds went about slicing the hosts up with abandon. Chan made it 3-0 off good work by Neeraj Muthyala
down the left, after which Salah Kamel
attracted much vitriol, for his crunching takedown of Li Ruochao that left the debutant having to be stretchered off. That was also Kamel's third booking of the season, which means he will be unavailable for next week's monumental event against Sarcastic Fringeheads.
The match would proceed with 18 year-old Chen Tong Yun called upon for his first competitive outing in a month, and it showed. While lone holdover Mario Delmotte and Guo Congmin were hardly poor defenders by any means, they were facing down a marauding Mudaliar, Egan and Kalki, a trio of which any were a credible threat to simply explode past their man, before even going into the understanding that had been cultivated between them. They carved Barca up for Chu Xin Lee
to make it four in the 34th minute, Muthyala converted Gilbert Webb
's corner delivery five minutes later, and poor Fernando Julca finally had the satisfaction of making a top-class save against Vikram Mudaliar
, as Grilled showed few signs of mercy.
The Birds wouldn't have it all their way, however, as the game would have to be stopped, with Kalki slightly-unwillingly putting the ball out, after frantic signalling from Webb and Ter Berg at the back. Massoud Dob
's right groin issues had flared up, it seemed, and unlike the first occurrence earlier on, there would be no gritting one's teeth through this. Manuel Vadalà
on, Dob off.
The substitute goalie would have next to nothing to do, what with Dob only having to watch Bai Ping Qiang's premature attempt go well over, in his time here. It was another story altogether at the other end, as the visiting fans bayed for more; The Barca contingent could take some small comfort in the fire shown by Delmotte and Guo, as they fended off run after run, although Chu and Egan did give Julca some work to do, with Guo even managing to get a shot on target in the meantime.
Julca's stop from Egan in the 68th minute didn't go very far, however, as Chai Roongrueng bit off more than he could chew, in trying to wriggle out from the encroachment of both Muthyala and Chan. The latter surged forward, ball at feet, with the Grilled strikers instantly spreading themselves out, but in the end it was Chu Xin Lee
's abrupt cut-in from the left - picked up by no-one - that led to a pretty straightforward sixth goal.
There remained time enough for Chan Ze Han
to cap a brilliant individual performance with a second fine strike, upon which Chu would be replaced by Cyril Künzler
for the final ten minutes. There were some concerns over Salah Kamel
's calf in the 84th, from Zachi Gil-Har's overcooked challenge, but it would be Kalki who would be withdrawn for Moey instead. Not without sound reasoning, mind, since Kamel can have the fortnight off anyway, due to his suspension.