It wouldn't get better for the Tecos Foreign Legion against Grilled Birds, as they were humbled 1-6 at home - and that without the latter even raising their game, frankly speaking. A just-turned-29 Chan Ze Han
was the purveyor of their downfall, as he chimed in with his fourth career hat-trick to blow the Orchard hosts away.
Grilled had only known of the Legion by reputation before this, with the Legionnaires having picked up a respectable nine league titles in their history thus far, if just the one in Division Two last season. This was something that their main club - Mexico's Helenitas - had not yet managed, though, and masterminding their rise to the S-League had made ambitious young head coach Asanka Rajasekara extremely popular amongst the Legion set indeed.
Pride of their youth academy Zahar Ahmad might have left for decorated Ghana club Nour-ul-'Alam for near S$13 million, but this had allowed Rajasekara to bolster the Legion's bid for top flight survival by recruiting Angolan sweeper Vítor Aires, who would however be dislodged by Hungarian veteran Gábor Balog today. Former Brunei international Chee Long Jie would start at rightback as usual, supporting homegrown skipper Sitanshu Pawar, with most of their hopes shouldered by German forward Andreas Bülles, who has recorded a decent six goals in all competitions so far.
The Birds would for their part experiment with the lesser-spotted central midfield pairing of Bilal Mohammad Harun
and Teo Chuan Yong
, with the similarly-rare sight of Kalle ter Berg
and Bernie Egan
on the wings, as they sought to establish dominance from the middle. Palestinian star Salah Kamel
was clearly their control tower in this arrangement, with most of the initial plays engineered through him.
This was a uncomplicated strategy, but hardly easy to deal with for all that, and with Tecos Foreign Legion having conceded an average of four goals a match in the league, few were expecting them to successfully hold out for long. While fullbacks Chua and Mário Pedro Machado were not without their admirers, this was as much down to their attacking utility as any raw defensive chops, and Balog had been routinely noted as not getting any younger.
Against this undistinguished central defence, Grilled's forwards were all but chomping at the bit to test it, and their hopes would quickly come good. Chan Ze Han
understood Balog better than he himself did, so it seemed in the sixth minute, when he anticipated a feint and turn to Machado's side, from which Chan smoothly dispossessed Balog to score. Greek goalie Trifonas Akefalos would be sold out again seven minutes on, as nobody took responsibility for Vikram Mudaliar
on a free-kick, with predictable results - two-nil.
Grilled's decision to concentrate on securing possession and having the rest of their game fall in place was coming together exceedingly well, and a flustered Pawar would be reduced to hacking Bernie Egan
down crudely in the 16th minute, further reducing his future options after being booked for that. Chan would add another goal in the 23rd minute as Kamel discharged his job excellently, with a bold dribble down the middle opening the field up for Chan to come in again.
The Birds would not have it all their way, though, and the Legion for their other shortcomings have after all managed to score against Haha and United at home. They were worthy enough of respect whenever they got close to Grilled's box - which that said wasn't very often - and Bülles would turn provider on a dime in the 33rd, as he dinked it through for former Amicitia Maritimo United man Chris Kuang to reduce. Gilbert Webb
tried to respond with his patented barnstormer, but it drifted just wide.
Half-time did a world of good for Grilled more than their hosts, as they burst out of the blocks with great energy. It was gearing up to be a field day for their forward line, as the Legion defence showed no particular desire or ability to rein them in. Chee Long Jie was certainly not overly fixated on holding his ground against Bernie Egan
, which cumulated in the Irishman overrunning him handily to assist Moey Xin Seng
, four minutes after the restart.
No time for a breather here for the Legion, as Chan Ze Han
mercilessly struck again, before they quite knew what was going on - Kalle ter Berg
wasn't about to be cut out of the fun as he ranged down the other flank, and Machado proved equally unwilling to overwork himself. About six minutes on, Vikram Mudaliar
would slice Grilled's sixth past Akefalos, who looked as if he had been resigned to another thrashing for some time.
That satisfied Grilled's lust for goals, and under Serpin's directions, they would transition to protecting what they had, with Wu Jinglong
and Chu Xin Lee
introduced towards the end to eat up time. Tecos Foreign Legion made one last attempt at another consolation in added time, but former national U-20 winger Ilham Abd Rahim Kamarul Azhar found Jānis Salmiņš
in an uncharitable mood.