06 November 2011

Brunei fall 1-2 to Timor Leste in opener

Jason Thomas

Sunday, November 6, 2011

BRUNEI blew a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to Timor Leste in what was nevertheless an encouraging performance from the side in their Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football competition opener here yesterday.

Making a return to the tournament after 10 years, the Sultanate took a 1-0 advantage mid-way through the first half when Mohd Najib Hj Tarif slammed the ball home after a smart back-heel from striker Hamizan Sulaiman following a free kick which caused havoc in the box at the Lebak Bulus Stadium.

Though Timor Leste were toothless in the first half it was a different story in the second, where a brace from Murilo Ribeiro de Almeida helped them secure a comeback in what was the first game for both sides.

Pressing the Bruneians from the get-go, the second 45 minutes was a stark difference from the first where Brunei's nifty one-two passing game saw them on top.

De Almeida made it 1-1 after pouncing on a free-kick into the box in the 64th minute, bagging the winner eight minutes later after tapping in a square pass from strike partner Alan Leandro da Silva Pinheiro.

With 2009 silver-medalists Vietnam held to a 0-0 draw by Myanmar in yesterday's second game, the result means Brunei now sit fifth in the six-team Group B with Vietnam's 3-1 win over the Philippines keeping the Filipinos rooted at the bottom of the table.

The only other game of the tournament saw Myanmar edge Laos 3-2.

De Almeida's second strike was a frustrating goal for Brunei to let it, coming from a long-ball which caught the entire defense napping and creating a two-on-one situation which ultimately cost Brunei the match.

"We were careless and conceded through our own mistakes," admitted assistant coach Pg Serfuddin Pg Hj Mohd Salleh.

"Our defence worked hard to defend the line but .... It was hard luck. I think we will improve and learn from these mistakes.

"We had chances but at the end of the day we didn't convert enough of them. We played well in the first half with our short passing and we showed our skill," he added.

With fatigue taking its toll on the players, Brunei's passing game suffered in the second half and they failed to reproduce their fine form in the first half.

Timor Leste's relentless pressure right after the break gave Brunei the jitters, and their taller and more physical opponents also wore Brunei's players down.

Stray passes started creeping into Brunei's game as the match progressed, with their support play also found to be lacking.

In the end they were left thinking about what could have been, with captain Azwan Muhd Salleh testing Timor Leste custodian Emerson Carlos Cesario as early as the sixth minute and Hamizan, Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris and Adi Said also guilty of missing chances in what was a bright first half for Brunei.

Adi looked especially threatening in front of goal and could have won the game for Brunei had he been more clinical.

The team will enjoy a day of rest today before facing Laos tomorrow, the match set for the Lebak Bulus Stadium at 5pm Brunei time.The Brunei Times

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