BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Thursday, January 19, 2012
GOALS from Rodrigo Grahl and Shahrazen Said sealed a memorable come-from-behind 2-1 win for DPMM FC in a charity match against Thai Premier League (TPL) side Chiangrai United FC last night.
Grahl, the veteran Brazilian striker who was signed last week, became an instant hit at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas after cooly converting a penalty he earned in the 25th minute and celebrating by taking out a Brunei flag from his shin pad and displaying it to the approving crowd.
Continuing his jubilation with some silky samba steps, the 34-year-old looks certain to be a fan-favourite when the team take to the Feb 9 Singapore League (S-League).
"I was confident I would score," said Grahl of his idea to bring a flag along.
"I want to thank the fans, it was our first big game at this stadium and it was a good fight. I'm very happy to have scored in my first match here. Like I said before, this team is like my family.
"The Thais are a good team with many imports so this was good preparation for us," said the former Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos star, adding the win gave him confidence that the team can challenge for the S-League title.
But fortune wasn't always on DPMM FC's side.
The 2009 Singapore League Cup winners were set to get a run for their money against the Thais, especially since their fitness levels are arguably higher since they are near the top of the TPL and came with seven imports including six Brazilians.
DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic opted for the same line-up that played to a 0-0 draw against the Thais on Monday, and though it paid dividends in the first half, the second period proved to be a largely defensive affair once Shahrazen one of three forwards in a 3-4-3 formation was substituted at the start.
The game was the hosts' largest test since their 2-2 draw against Tampines Rovers FC on Sept 29, 2009 their last S-League game since they were forced to pull out of the league due to FIFA's suspension on the Sultanate, which was lifted last May.
Though Brunei's only professional side started brightly with several penetrating forays into the Thai half and looked the hungrier of the two teams, it was the visitors who drew first blood after controversially capitalising on a lack of concentration in the 18th minute.
Ghanian striker Osman Basiru was judged to have fouled a Chiangrai player at the middle of the park, and while he and his teammates were busy arguing with the referee, the Thais strung a through ball to Wasan Nathasan who scored in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Mohd Wardun Yussof.
It only served to spring DPMM FC into life.
Prior to the game Simunic vowed that his team's spirit would be the difference. He was right.
A superb cross-field diagonal pass from right-winger Hj Muhd Subhi Abdilah Hj Bakir who was in his own half caught the entire Chiangrai defence napping, and goalkeeper Arthit Thanusorn was forced to rush out of his line and clatter with Grahl mid-air.
The 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship representative stepped up to the spot and easily scored past Arthit's right.
It was 2-1 four minutes later when Shahrazen made up for some sloppy touches on the ball in the opening exchanges.
Diving low with a glancing header, he connected on a cross from vice-captain Rosmin Hj Mohd Kamis and went on to celebrate with his trademark backflips.
But the introduction of midfielder Abang Norsilmy Abang Hj Taha in the second half saw a more defensive-minded DPMM FC take to the field, and though the 1999 Malaysia Cup winner was an effective guard in front of the back-line, the team's attack suffered.
Basiru was a shining light in the second half though; his pace, trickery and willingness to run at the Thai defence was rewarded with several free-kicks in dangerous positions.
However, the lack of quality service into the box by Rosmin, midfielder Ivan Jerkovic and left-back Yusof Mohd Salleh meant DPMM FC were unable to capitalise on the opportunities.
The Thais started to find more space, especially late in the second half but poor finishing and a spate of important tackles left-winger Azwan Muhd Salleh produced a key goal-line save late on prevented a draw.
Despite the lacklustre second-half, Simunic felt last night's win proved that their training for the S-League which started in October has paid fruit.
"Nobody in the world plays with three strikers ... It is very risky, but we did it," boasted the Croatian.
"I'm happy with how the team looked on the pitch. We played with big hearts and it was a fantastic tactical game.
"It was a big game against big opponents it was like Hyundai beating Mercedes-Benz!
"We played two games in three days but I didn't want to change any players unless someone died or got injured. We've been waiting four months for a game like this.
"Like what I've told you before, we must be patient with the team. But I'm happy with their fitness level. The Thais did not outrun us and we were equally matched.
"Shahrazen was injured and he was honest about it and said he needed to be changed. But it's nothing serious, just a knock.
"People in Brunei must be happy about how the locals played. They showed an excellent game, of course helped by the imports. Like I said before, if I don't have a strong local team, not even (having Barcelona star Lionel) Messi will help me," he added.
Proceeds from the game will be channelled to the Humanitarian Aid Fund for Flood Victims in Thailand and Cambodia.The Brunei Times
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