Determined to put their wooden-spoon finish at last month's Nations Cup behind them, Singapore came roaring out of the starting blocks in the opening game of the FAS Under-21 International Challenge Cup last night.
Dhukilan Jeevamani (16th), Joshua Pereira (34th and 38th), Muhaimin Suhaimi (53rd) and Amiruldin Asraf (57th) all found the net at the Bishan Stadium, as the hosts whipped Hong Kong 5-0.
More significantly, the result allowed them to make the final in the inaugural quadrangular organised by the Football Association of Singapore. The Cubs will meet Iran in Saturday's title decider. The latter beat Uzbekistan 5-4 on penalties after yesterday's other match ended 1-1.
Likely to form the majority of the Republic's SEA Games squad next year, the hosts looked sharp on the ball and showed ambition through their long-range shots and cross-field passes to pump the ball forward to link up play.
While they took their time to settle into the game, Dhukilan settled their nerves when he stabbed home from a corner for the first goal.
Pereira was a revelation, pulling the strings for the team in midfield. The Garena Young Lions playmaker was a key figure with his silky runs and deft passes. Besides his brace, he also registered two assists - for Dhukilan and Muhaimin's goals.
His second goal made the 893 spectators' jaws drop. He controlled a cut-back from Jonathan Tan and curled it beautifully past opposition goalkeeper Yuen Ho Chun from close range.
Yuen, who endured a torrid time between the sticks, was replaced in the second half by reserve custodian Li Yat Chun.
At the opposite end, Singapore's Zharfan Rohaizad had little to do throughout, as Hong Kong failed to even register a shot on target. For that, he had to thank the tireless defensive duo of Dhukilan and Rusyaidi Salime, who never shied from a tackle.
Despite the three-goal cushion, Singapore remained relentless in attack in the second half. Forwards Muhaimin and Amiruldin were a menace to the Hong Kong backline, constantly finding space to play the ball through on goal to strike.
Pereira, named the Man of the Match, insisted he was far from the finished product, saying: "It's a team sport and I owe it to the other players. It was just a great performance by everyone. I didn't think I played that fantastic and it was a match where I could've done better - there's still room for improvement."
His coach, Richard Tardy, agreed, noting: "We must do more and be better because in the beginning of the first half and the second half, we didn't start very well... We defended too much and we didn't fight too much or press too much at the (start of each half)."
Losers Hong Kong and Uzbekistan will play for third place.