That Ship Has Sailed
Chitre Comes Of Age
II.4 side FC The Sail @ MarinaBay might be seeded rather higher than Grilled Birds in the Sapphire Challenger Cup, but there was only one way this was going to go, with their Swiss gaffer Herald Loewenfeld set on blooding his second team. Actually, this was Tian's objective too, with the not-so-slight difference being the gap between the sides' reserves. 30 year-old fullback Ahmad Yunus Roslan provided some much-needed experience for the Sails, with Porter Ho and Anuar Umar making up a disproportionately-strong left flank.
The Birds had Egemen Dinçer Ferzan
returning to Cup commitments with Brian Reddy
keeping his nose clean for once, though with the Sails reduced to attempting an all-out press from the get-go, and in a 3-4-3 at that, it was always pencilled in to be a lopsided beatdown. The aptly-named Alan Training was very much still learning, as he had no hope of holding the fort against a ferocious Grilled midfield three, and Ferzan would sound the first bell with a thunderous cross driven in after 13 minutes. Ibnou Balde
barely got to it, but it was enough as the pace behind the cross carried it over the line.
It was still all going in a single direction as the Birds inched their way up the pitch, gradually compressing play into the Sails' own half. Most of their time was spent trying to open the opposition pack up, which yielded two more by the 34th minute, as Damian Hutter
and Chia Kwang Tse
struck rather workmanlike goals, after persistent team efforts to prise their defence open. A better goalkeeper than the 20 year-old Cai Ping might yet have kept them out, but Joel Dechen was seated on the bench.
Ping would have something for his resume soon, although he would first ship a fourth to Gandhik Chitre
, who found Ferzan again having the edge against Roslan in one-on-one confrontations; Ferzan proved less adept at finishing them off himself, however, as he could only redirect Damian Hutter
's sweet around-the-standing-leg handoff straight to Ping. The goalkeeper would then seemingly get the slightest of touches on Chan Ze Han
's fierce rising strike two minutes later in the 42nd, but Maldives referee Mahmoud Arafat didn't see it that way, and awarded the goal kick to Chan's disgust.
The second half saw Radovan Jaška
on for Teo Chuan Yong
, who had barely had the opportunity to exert himself on defence, but it was another player's day anyway. Gandhik Chitre
made it twenty goals for himself before turning 22, as he feinted to the outside of Yoihenba Kumar, before dragging the ball clean across himself to rush inside of the off-balance rightback. That got him a special announcement from the well-prepared commentators, and a loud cheer from the green section.
Chitre was hardly done, and his first professional hat-trick followed shortly afterwards. Chan Ze Han
would take his time planning out the free-kick awarded at the head of the box, with the entire Sails team expecting a curler over the wall, with good justification from Chan's history. It would be drilled diagonally across for Paulino Trindade
, however, and a quick change of direction later, Chitre was there to gleefully swat it past Ping for 6-0.
It was just an exhibition now, and Grilled would seek to add to their score, although with the lack of conviction to be expected of a team already so far ahead. Chan Ze Han
might have been expected to be an exception, but it just wouldn't come together for him here, with a superb left-footed improvisation clattering the bar in the 62nd minute. Radovan Jaška
then had a dropping header saved by Ping six minutes later, with Ferzan then not managing to keep his shot down, after Chan had done the thinning of the defence for him.
Chan looked satisfied enough as he ambled off for Phua Ming Xin
with fifteen minutes remaining - passing the armband to a delighted Hwang Teck Fu
- and the rest of the Birds seemed so too, as they prioritized simply getting through the rest of the game without unnecessary complications. Chitre himself would yield his spot to Mohsen El Khateeb
towards the end, but he made sure to stick around long enough, to claim the match ball.