10 November 2011

Myanmar bring Brunei crashing down to earth

Jason Thomas

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BRUNEI need to win their next two games to progress to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games semi-finals after a discouraging 4-0 loss to Myanmar yesterday.

The game was the second in a row that the Sultanate was forced to end with 10-men after Monday's 2-2 draw against Laos, and yesterday's result at the Lebak Bulus Stadium was enough to propel Myanmar from third to top of the six-team Group A.

Brunei remain fifth with a solitary point, with Vietnam staying in second after beating previous leaders Timor Leste 2-0 in yesterday's other Group A tie. Though they are tied on points with Myanmar, Vietnam are below their neighbours because of a poorer goal difference.

Timor Leste drop to third with six points, Laos are fourth on four points and the Philippines have yet to register their first point.

Meanwhile in Group A, Malaysia's substitute striker Izzaq Faris bagged the winning goal five minutes from time to give them a 2-1 win over rivals Thailand. The other match at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium saw Singapore come from behind to clinch a memorable 2-1 result against Cambodia, who have now lost both of their games the first a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of hosts Indonesia on Monday.

None of that will matter for Dayem Hj Ali though, who had other matters on his mind after witnessing the disjointed display his side put in.

"Our players can't be forgiven for their performance today," said Brunei's almost apologetic coach.

"They made many mistakes, especially in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the first half, and it cost us the game. It happened again in the second half and that's why we lost the game.

"Two of our players were ineligible to play since they were suspended captain Azwan Muhd Salleh and centre-back Reduan Petara. Azwan's loss affected our preparation and perhaps made us not as confident.

"I admit what he (Muhammad Arif Ali Rahman) did was too hard ... Rough," added Dayem of the straight red shown to the defender after he slid in on Aung Myint Aye in the 67th minute to hand Myanmar a numerical advantage which would make the game beyond reach.

Muhammad Arif was probably still seething after losing possession to Myint Aye two minutes earlier and allowing him to slip in a pass to Kyaw Ko Ko, the striker easily finishing off from outside the box to make it 3-0 with only Junaidi Akim in the Brunei goal to beat.

The Sultanate was trailing as early as the sixth minute when a free-kick from set-piece specialist Kyaw Zeyar Win found the back of the net, and the team would double their lead in the 32nd minute when Min Min Thu punished a static Brunei back-line by rising unchallenged to convert a corner-kick sent in by Zeyar.

Though they said they wouldn't, Brunei was sorely missing Azwan and the midfielder's ability to shield his defence was a big reason the team performed badly.

The team also needed someone with his calmness and composure on the ball, and no one was able to fill his boots.

Losing the midfield battle, it was up to Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris to pull the strings but he put in an erratic display.

Striker Adi Said, who scored both goals during Brunei's 2-2 stalemate with Laos, suffered from a lack of support and attacking midfielder Hamizan Aziz Sulaiman seemed to take too long with the ball.

But perhaps memories of their gritty draw against Laos, where they played for 10-men for 75 minutes after Reduan was sent to an early shower, still lingered.

Brunei fought for every ball though their passing game needed some polishing, they looked dangerous on the left flank through Mohd Najib Hj Tarif who scored the country's only goal in their 2-1 loss to Timor Leste in last Saturday's opener.

Adi would send in a tame attempt at goal seconds before the half-time whistle and forced a corner-kick on the hour-mark after receiving a delightful lob from Mohd Hendra, with striker Mohamad Nazirul Nazreen Abdullah blasting the ball wide after that.

It was all downhill after Myanmar made it 3-0 five minutes later, not to mention the effect Muhammad Arif's sending off had on the team.

If a leader like Azwan was on the field, Muhammad Arif would probably have thought twice about running half the length of the field to come barging in on his new nemesis a stupid piece of defending to say the least since Md Enddy Zulyady Awang Sapar already had Myint Aye marked.

The ineffective and tiring Mohd Hendra was substituted for Adi's brother Ahmad Hafiz on the 77th minute, but even the defender's fresh legs couldn't have prevented Myanmar from exploiting their advantage during a counter-attack in the 81st minute when a through ball to substitute Kyi Lin was cooly slotted home.

Surprisingly, left-winger Lin who along with Ko Ko was said to have been injured by Myanmar Football Federation's media director U Soe Moe Kyaw, so perhaps a last minute cure was concocted to revive the pair.

Myanmar didn't celebrate their fourth goal though their vocal band of supporters had no such problems.

Though Brunei are mathematically still in the running, Dayem said the disparaging loss was a harsh lesson for the team.

"Our chances of making it to the last four cannot be considered," he insisted.

"Also looking at the team's inconsistent play over the three games (including the 2-1 loss to Timor Leste in the opener) ... I think we have to face reality.

"But we will still try our best in our remaining two games," stressed the coach.

Group B action continues with the Philippines taking on Laos tomorrow, with the day's other games pitting Singapore against hosts Indonesia and Thailand against Cambodia in Group A.

The Brunei Times

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