THERE is a lot of work to be done for the national football team after slipping to a 2-0 defeat to Malaysia’s Under-22 team in the first of their two friendly matches last night.
Syafiq Ahmad netted twice in the space of 10 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute at the Paroi Stadium in Negri Sembilan, and Brunei assistant coach Ali Hj Mustafa said there is plenty of room for improvement ahead of next week’s AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 qualifiers in Cambodia.
“It has been a long time since we played a competitive friendly game. In the first half, we showed good spirit to improve our game play,” said Ali in a post-match interview with Astro Arena.
“We also found some weaknesses to fix for the upcoming competition.
“We will have to improve on our second half after conceding two goals from set plays,” he added.
The Wasps started out the match with nine DPMM FC players — with only Adi Said on the bench — joining the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council’s (MS ABDB) Azizi Ali Rahman and Tabuan Under-21’s Hanif Hamir.
Malaysia U-22 should have taken the lead in the 14th minute when Nadarajah Thanabalan fired from inside the six-yard box — but it bounced off the face of Brunei goalkeeper Wardun Yussof.
Muhd Jafri Firdaus Muhd Chew — who played as the lone striker for the Malaysians — and Mohd Zairulizwan Mazlan both came close but watched their efforts finish at the wrong side of the post.
Brunei had only one shot the entire first half after a poor clearance by the hosts allowed Rosmin Hj Md Kamis to fire from 20 yards out, only to watch it go over the bar.
Malaysia’s coach Frank Bernhardt sent on Syafiq in the 63rd minute to combine with Jafri and substitute Arif Anwar up front. Brunei had their best chance of the game moments later with Azwan Salleh delivering a good free-kick from just outside the box, but Shahrazen Said headed the ball inches wide.
The hosts deservingly grabbed the lead after Syafiq headed home Irfan Zakaria’s free-kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute.
The Kedah FC forward then doubled Malaysia’s advantage 10 minutes later off another set-piece when he connected on Syazwan Andik’s corner with a diving header from outside the six-yard box to beat Wardun.
The two teams will meet again at the same venue tomorrow. The game will shown live on Astro Arena at 5pm.