10 April 2012

Azwan, the Lions tamer

Jason Thomas

Saturday, April 7, 2012

AZWAN Salleh's magical injury-time free-kick sealed a dramatic 1-0 win for DPMM FC over the Young Lions last night, the team's fifth win of the Singapore League (S-League) season consolidating their position at the top of the table.

Basement dwellers with only a point to their name, Singapore's national Under-23 team looked destined for a deserved draw at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas after frustrating the league leaders with their determined defending.

But the linesman spotted a foul on substitute Helmi Zambin in the dying seconds and up stepped Azwan, whose strike means DPMM FC now enjoy a two-point lead over Balestier Khalsa, who beat Albirex Niigata FC (S) 2-1 last night.

The entire Young Lions team returned inside the box for the set-piece, but it was all for nothing as Azwan's 30-yard free-kick gloriously sailed over the crowd and past goalkeeper Shazwan Bukhari's right, with the stadium instantly erupting to celebrate Azwan's first goal of the season.

DPMM FC head coach Vjeran Simunic likened Azwan to Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos after the match, and though the midfielder didn't mention anything about the left-legged legend's powerful shots, he admitted he did enjoy a bit of the limelight.

"It was the last minute so I wanted to be the hero," grinned the 24-year-old Bruneian, whose teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders after the final whistle.

"I didn't save the game the whole team did," said Azwan, adding that he meant for it to be a cross into the box.

Saving the game was on top of every fan's minds last night as the goalless stalemate which would have been the first time the team failed to find the net all season was bound to feel more like a defeat than a draw.

The team were thwarted time and again by an organised Young Lions back-line, but their biggest problem especially in the first half was creating chances.

DPMM FC just couldn't get their passing game going and a dull and dreary opener saw chances few and far between.

The Young Lions attacking trio of left-winger Sherif El-Masri, right-winger Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee and striker Jonathan Toto proved to be a threat throughout the tie, with El-Masri in particular a menace with his dazzling dribbling.

DPMM FC's Ghanaian striker Osman Basiru looked lively in the opening minutes, but he would suffer from a lack of service, with the half's best chance falling to right-winger Hj Muhd Subhi Abdilah Hj Bakir, whose header from an Azwan cross was off the mark.

Lee headed straight at goalkeeper Wardun Yussof and El-Masri wasted a free-kick to end the half.

DPMM FC right-back Shahrulrizal Hj Abd Rahman had two headers which missed their mark in the second half and Basiru watched his header bounce back into play after hitting the bar.

Faris Ramli should have given the visitors the lead in the 72nd minute, but didn't connect on an El-Masri cross, a miss which would come back to haunt them with Azwan's howler.The Brunei Times

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