THE DSTGroup Brunei Premier League II (BPL II) is only a quarter way through and LLRC FT are already favourites to take the crown.
Second in last year's BPL II having lost the title and promotion battle to AM Gunners FC the team from Belait look set to win promotion next season.
Their run of form has been more than stellar in the first five league games, winning all but one match when they had to come back from behind to secure a draw against second-placed Prisons Department, who have 11 points from five matches and trail the leaders by two points.
The draw secured them the top spot with 13 points with the highest goal tally in the league, 26.
WITH only six games left in the DSTGroup Brunei Premier League I (BPL I), QAF FC are set on their way to becoming champions for three times running.
But, judging from the tight battle at the top of the 10-team BPL I table, the defending champions would be ill-advised to take anything for granted.
QAF FC need to get their finishing touch back as their form has been dipping lately scrapping through their past two results, a lone goal against Wijaya FC this week and a 2-2 draw against second-placed AM Gunners FC last week.
This week's 1-0 victory against Wijaya FC, who are currently eighth with 10 points, brought them four points clear at the top with 32 points after 12 matches.
They were aided by fourth placed Jerudong FC, who have 21 points after scoring a 1-1 draw with QAF FC's arch-rivals MS ABDB.
The inclusion of ex-DPMM FC players into MS ABDB, currently third on 27 points, was expected to be a boost but their 2-1 loss against AM Gunners last week was a blow which they have failed to recover from.
The result allows AM Gunners, who scored a 4-1 win against Majra FC on Monday, to leapfrog MS ABDB into second place with 28 points.
The battle for top spot is still there for the taking for AM Gunners, MS ABDB and Jerudong if they can get positive results from their remaining matches.
The mid-table tussle, meanwhile, is too close to call as Majra FC, Indera FC and AH United are all tied at 15 points.
AH United look to be in scintillating form winning big in their last two matches, 4-2 against Brunei Shell FT and 4-1 against NBT FC.
If things continue this way, they might find themselves in fourth place by the end of the season.
Brunei Shell FT and NBT FC, two bottom dwellers, need to start getting their game on if they intend to stay in the league next year.
Tied at only five points after 12 matches each, both teams failed to get a single point in their last couple of games.
BRUNEI SHELL FT and NBT FC are in danger of relegation after losing their matches against AH United and Indera FC respectively in the DSTGroup Brunei Premier League 1 (BPL I) last night.
The match between AH United and Brunei Shell which took place at Balapan Track and Field in Berakas saw AH United edge past their opponents 4-2.
It started off brightly for both teams with chances flowing freely.
Brunei Shell literally lost the match after a crazy 10 minutes, conceding three goals after their defence went to sleep.
The first goal came in the 28th minute when ex-DPMM FC skipper Ak Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit lobbed a high ball to captain Hairoddin Abdullah, who controlled well before shooting past Brunei Shell goalkeeper Md Faidhiren Yahya.
Six minutes later, Md Nazirul Nazreen Abdullah threaded a through ball to Md Azril Md Ali, whose speed easily brought him past the Brunei Shell defenders, scoring the second goal with a right-footed effort.
Md Nazirul turned from provider to scorer four minutes later when he blitzed past defenders on the left and took a shot which beat Md Faidhiren at his near post.
The first half ended with AH United having a comfortable three-goal advantage.
Brunei Shell were determined to assert themselves back into the game right from kick-off in the second half while AH United were starting to look complacent.
The pressure from Brunei Shell paid off in the 62nd minute when Ak Muhd Shazwan Pg Yussof delivered a cross into the box for Ak Md Sallehuddin Pg Hj Idris to loop the ball over AH United goalkeeper Ak Ahmad Fitri Pg Momin into the net.
AH United's Ak Sallehuddin then earned himself a yellow card in the 64th minute with a harsh tackle on the goalscorer.
A substitution was made by AH United as Muhd Maududi Hilmi Kasmi was replaced by Ahmad Mumtaz Hj Johor.
Brunei Shell got their second goal of the night when a miscommunication between AH United goalkeeper Ak Ahmad and his defender was taken advantage of by Md Ezhar Sarbini, who only had to tap the ball in as Ak Ahmad stood dumbstruck as the ball rolled slowly into the net.
AH United made another substitution as Ak Sallehuddin made way for Adi Masul Hj Sulaiman.
The introduction of fresh legs paid off in the 80th minute when Ak Asrul Asydnee Pg Sahdon drew the Brunei Shell defenders and goalkeeper Md Faidhiren to the right before squaring the ball to substitute Ahmad Mumtaz to slot it into an open net.
The proceedings got a little ugly near the end as Brunei Shell's Md Abd Hafiq and AH United's Adi Masul got yellow carded in the 86th and 88th minute respectively. Adi Masul got his card for a sliding tackle on Brunei Shell's Mohd Fakhrullah Hj Md Azanie, who had to be stretchered off the field.
The day's other match at the Berakas Sports Complex saw Indera FC beat NBT FC 2-0.
'I'M sorry," that was Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit's heartfelt plea to football fans in the country.
The ex-DPMM FC skipper was apologising for his violent conduct in the Singapore League (S-League) match in August that saw three DPMM FC defenders sent off and the Brunei side thrashed 6-1 by Home United FC.
Yesterday's exclusive interview with The Brunei Times marks the first time the iconic national player opened up to the Press since the fateful 'red night' that led DPMM FC to crash to their first home defeat since their debut in the S-League.
"It was the worst moment of my career," he said, "I admit that it was my fault. It was a heat of the moment."
The leftback received his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card in the match, sparking an ugly confrontation between DPMM FC players and referee K Kalimuthu.
Croatian libero Rene Komar confronted the referee, manhandled and punched him, and right back Yusof Salleh also went physical with the match official.
Pg Sallehuddin was handed a nine-month ban, originally a year but was cut down after an appeal, and also fined S$2,000.
Yusof Salleh was banned for six months and fined S$1,000.
Komar's 15-month ban was reduced to a year, and was fined S$3,000.
"I feel disappointed and sad. I don't agree with the first yellow, and neither do I agree with the second," he said.
"My mistake was that I got angry and took it out on the referee.
"I sincerely regret the incident as it cost us the game. The way we were playing that night was good enough to win the match," he added.
"I'm sorry because of me (the incident was sparked), we lost the game" he admitted.
Asked if he has changed his style of football since, the 36-year-old Bruneian replied: "I will never change the way I play. I give my 100 per cent in every match and I'd do anything to win.
"My motto is 'always do the best'," he said.
Asked what he regreted most about the incident, he replied: "I feel like my mission isn't accomplished. Hopefully once everything is settled regarding DPMM FC and the S-League, then I can play in S-League again and finish it."
DPMM FC were barred from playing in the S-League on Sept 29 when the sport's governing body Fifa decided to suspend the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) at its executive committee meeting. The suspension meant that DPMM FC could not finish their debut S-League season.
Debuting back in 1994 as a semi pro in the Malaysian League, Pg Sallehuddin now plays for AH United in the DSTGroup Brunei Premier League I as a left wingback and a defensive midfielder.
He was instrumental in his team's 4-2 win against Brunei Shell FT this week, with a fine assist for team captain Hairoddin Abdullah's goal.
On AH United, he said: "We're aiming to get the best position for the league. We're on track for fourth place if we are able to win all the games."
The proudest moment of the player's career was winning the Malaysia Cup back in 1999 and the Singapore Cup this year.
"It was the proudest moment of my life. It was our first attempt at the S-league and we got an unexpected result. Winning the League Cup is certainly a bonus for me, something memorable to cherish before my retirement," he said.
The former national skipper is now 36. Asked how much longer the veteran will play, he replied: "I always make my decisions along with the season. As long as my commitment for the game is there, I will keep on playing. As long as the team need me, then I'll keep on playing.
"But not exceeding 40 years old," he added.
He concluded the interview with a note of hope.
"To me, football is a staple sport. It's like eating rice for Bruneians. Hopefully the issue surrounding the future of Brunei's football can be settled soon, so it can once again be active and continue to develop."
QAF FC extended their lead at the DSTGroup Brunei Premier League I (BPL I) summit when they edged Wijaya FC 1-0 last night.
Arch-rivals and third-placed MS ABDB, meanwhile, could only draw 1-1 with Jerudong FC, fourth in the table.
A victory for ABDB, who now have 27 points from 12 games, would have moved them back into second place.
AM Gunners, who beat Majra FC 4-1 on Monday, are now second with 28 points four points behind leaders QAF FC.
The first few minutes of play at the Balapan Track and Field in Berakas saw Wijaya control the proceedings, and QAF FC found themselves limited to playing within their own half.
However, Wijaya were unable to find any clear cut chances on goal.
Khairul Fitri almost got them the lead when he broke through the left but fired straight at QAF FC's goalkeeper Mohd Sahan.
QAF FC had their chance when midfielder Ratano Tuah stole the ball from defender Jamrin Hj Johari, ran down the left flank and delivered a wonderful cross into the box, but only to find the goalkeeper catching comfortably as no teammates were in sight.
Fifteen minutes into play and there were no signs that the deadlock would be broken any time soon even though both sides continued to create chances but that proved to be a false dawn.
Wijayas' defence once again proved to be their undoing and gifted QAF FC the lead.
After a superb team play by QAF FC, the ball fell to Md Aqmal Hakeem, who blitzed down the right and took a shot that beat Wijaya's goalkeeper Ak Muhd Naqib at the near-post.
Md Aqmal's job was made easy as Wijaya's defenders failed to close him down.
The goal proved to be fatal for Wijaya, as QAF FC's confidence grew along with proceedings.
The league leaders looked more menacing going forward, hoping to extend their lead.
Ratano again played a beautiful pass to Md Azri Sabirin, who beat the offside trap down the left, and crossed invitingly for Adie Arsham, who has the simplest of task to just head the ball into the net, but failed to make connection.
QAF FC created other chances but couldn't find the net as the first half ended with the lone goal.
The second half began with QAF FC's Hendra Azam playing a brilliant through ball onto the feet of goalscorer Md Aqmal, who then crossed the ball into Adie's path, who only had to tap it in, but failed to connect.
The tempo of the match slowed down with the defence tightened, as both teams resorting to long shots which never came close to troubling either goalkeepers.
Substitutions were made by both teams to bring fresh legs into the match.
This almost proved fruitful for QAF FC when substitute Nurul Aleshahnezan dribbled past two defenders on the right, but was denied by the alert Wijaya goalkeeper Naqib, who suffered a minor injury making the save.
QAF FC almost conceded in stoppage time from a corner. Jamrin Hj Johari floated the ball goalwards, only for Sahan to parry away.
Rahim Hj Daud, the manager of QAF FC, was happy with the win even though he felt that the team did not play well.
"The important thing is that we won the match,"he said. "The next few games that we are going to play will be tough. There are still improvements to be done and the players need to play better than this." he added.
At Tutong, MS ABDB were held to a 1-1 draw against Jerudong at Penanjong.
Azam Dato Salleh, the manager of Jerudong FC, was happy with the result. He said: "We made a few mistakes in the first half of the match which led to a goal.
"We changed our tactics in the second half, brought on fresh legs, and it was a good decision as it produced the equaliser."The Brunei Times
THE Prisons Department take on Liang Lumut Recreational Club Football Team (LLRC FT) this afternoon in the biggest match of this season's DSTGroup Brunei Premier League II (BPL II).
LLRC FT lead the 12-team table after collecting maximum points from four games, the only team in the league to maintain their winning record. Two points adrift at second, the Prisons Department will be looking for all three points to displace LLRC FT at the summit.
The Prisons Department have only dropped points to third-placed Lun Bawang in a 0-0 draw.
LLRC FT are the favourites heading into the tie, and the team from Belait are the league's topscorers with 24 goals.
They have also impressed between the posts, letting in only three.
Last season's runners-up, Annuar Hj Seidil and Md Azri Jebri will no doubt be the LLRC FT players to watch out for.
Annuar has scored a hat-trick in two games, against Perkasa FC on Dec 11 and against Kota Ranger on Oct 16.
Md Azri also scored three goals against Kota Ranger and is a regular on the scoresheet himself.
However, the Prisons Department cannot be written off so easily, especially since they will be boosted by the inclusion of two ex-DPMM FC players in their squad. Striker Abu Bakar Mahari is sure to be a threat upfront, while at the back goalkeeper Azman Illham will provide a reliable pair of gloves.
JERUDONG FC eased past NBT FC 4-1 in last night's DSTGroup Brunei Premier League I game to move to fourth in the standings.
Md Azwan Ali Rahman bagged a brace for Jerudong in their match at the Berakas Sports Complex, with Md Esmendy Brahim and Md Asrul Kubu also on target.
Having collected 17 points from 10 games, Jerudong now lead Majra FC by two points and AM Gunners FC are not too far away on 22 points.
The loss was NBT's seventh in 10 games, and they remain rooted at the bottom of the 10-team table with five points.
Jerudong had a firm grip of midfield and dominated possession for most of the game, creating four clear chances before Md Azwan opened the scoring from inside the area in the 17th minute when NBT's goalkeeper Md Nooraffie Md Salleh failed to handle a shot.
NBT's poor passing meant that they were unable to bring the ball forward and their control of the ball was also lacking.
Hardly creating chances, their strikers failed to hold the ball up and the young and inexperienced team did not play as a unit.
Their marking was constantly called into question and in the 36th minute Md Azwan came up with an unmarked header to put Jerudong 2-0 ahead going into the break.
Dahlan Hj Zainuddin had the chance to make it a trio of goals for Jerudong before the break when he was put through on goal but his shot sailed miles off the mark.
Starting the second half with a 3-5-2 formation, Jerudong were on the back foot in the opening minutes but NBT failed to create any scoring chances.
NBT were made to pay four minutes past the hour mark when Hidayatur Rahim Aliuddin raced down the left flank and dialed in a cross to Md Esmendy to score with a header.
Md Nooraffie was at fault for the goal though since he mistimed his run out of the box to clear the ball.
NBT finally got on the scoresheet in the 70th minute through Md Nor Akmal Hayat Ahmad whose shot from outside the box filtered through Jerudong goalkeeper Abd Hafiz Hj Mursadi's legs.
Md Nooraffie made two key saves in quick succession 10 minutes later, the first a curling free-kick from Jerudong captain Md Radzi Tamat from the left and the second a point-blank save from Hidayatur.
Jerudong were not to be denied in the 81st minute though, Md Asrul scoring with a header after connecting on a cross from the left.
The other match of the night saw the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council (MS ABDB) beat Brunei Shell Football Team 3-2 at the Brunei Shell Recreational Club in Seria.The Brunei Times
The second round of the DST Group Brunei Premier League will start with a new found excitement following confirmation of several Brunei DPMM FC players being injected into various local clubs to try to make a push for the championship. Following the announcement that Brunei DPMM FC can no longer be able to participate in the S League two months ago, the local players were temporarily released to local clubs to help them keep in shape and on the competitive edge.
Pengiran Haji Md Waslimin bin PSJ Pg Hj Abd Momin, the manager of Brunei DPMM FC said in an interview yesterday: "It's for a short term and if the situation has a sudden turnaround in the S League next year, we will recall the players back."
"The players could also maintain their form through the competition and also remain in competitive edge," he added.
The introduction of Brunei DPMM FC players looked set to level the playing field in the league, breaking the dominance of MS ABDB and QAF FC following the November transfer window.
It will now be tougher to score against Majra FC as goalkeeper Md Wardun Yussof has joined the club as well as Yussof Salleh.
Strong defensive player Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit together with Md Maududi Hilmi bin Kasmi has joined AH United.
Menglait FC obtained the services of Ak Md Nurhikman Pg Rajid while Hj Md Subhi Abdillah Bakir will be wearing the AM Gunners Jersey. Abu Bakar Mahari and Azman Ilham will be playing for KSJ Penjara.
MS ABDB are also boosted with the inclusion of the influential captain Rosmin Kamis with defender Safari Wahid and also Suhaimie Yusuf while top of the League QAF FC will have Hardy Bujang back in their squad.
Manager of QAF FC, Rahim Daud however is a bit skeptical on the short-term introduction of the players and said: "The excitement might not last long because the players may be called back into Brunei DPMM FC squad if there is a change in the situation of letting Brunei DPMM FC compete next year."
"The introduction of the new players will surely pose a new threat to QAF FC but I know that if a new player enters a team, they need time to adjust to the new environment."
"With the emergence of new faces in the various clubs, we cannot afford to make any mistakes in the remaining matches of the league," he added.