30 March 2012

Protecting their 100% record

Jason Thomas

Friday, March 30, 2012

DPMM FC'S unbeaten Singapore League (S-League) run topped Shahrazen Said's (pic, foreground in red) mind ahead of tonight's game against Gombak United FC.

The unbeaten record is one they share with Harimau Muda (Malaysian Under-23 team), and both sides' dodged determination to maintain the status quo went a long way in explaining the feisty 1-1 draw when they met last Thursday, when DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic was sent to the stands and hence will not be on the bench for today's match, according to a report on Gombak United's website.

Gombak, whose only win came on March 9 when they beat Tanjong Pagar United FC 3-0, head into tonight's game as underdogs though the tie at the Jurong West Stadium in Singapore between DPMM FC, the 2009 Singapore League champions, and Gombak, who won the 2008 edition, might have more to it than meets the eye.

Home United FC enjoy a one-point advantage atop the 13-team table, but their unbeaten run came to an end last night when they were on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline against Tampines Rovers FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore, where Aleksander Duric (37th minute) and Ahmed Fahmie (83rd minute) provided the goals.

"We have to do the same thing we've been doing in the previous matches ... Give more than 100 per cent to get the three points and hold our unbeaten record," said the striker yesterday.

"Right now, I'm not sure which Gombak players will be a threat ... Though we must focus on the five imports," added Shahrazen, who has netted twice in the team's five games this season.

Tenth in the table with a return of six points from a possible 15 is definitely not the kind of result Gombak coach K Balagumaran will be happy with, though his counterpart Simunic (pic) won't be complaining with his team's recent stellar run.

DPMM FC, who have slipped from first after the Harimau Muda stalemate to fourth after wins by three of their nearest rivals over the course of the week, can take heart in the fact that they are tied on 11 points with second-placed Young Tigers, third-placed Tampines and fifth-placed Balestier Khalsa FC which means they can top the table once again if they win tonight's match.

A high-scoring draw will also be enough for the visitors to leave the Jurong West Stadium at the summit of the league, and a lot of that will depend on how well Simunic's forward three can link up.

Shahrazen has been playing well with strike partner Osman Basiru, whose surging runs down the flanks usually on the left almost always end up with a foul on the Ghanaian or a scoring opportunity.

The team's top scorer with three goals, Basiru will know that he will be a marked man tonight.

Shahrazen is no pushover either, finishing joint top scorer during the Malaysian Super League (MSL) 2006/2007 season with 21 goals to prove his status as one of the region's top marksmen.

Though DPMM FC have netted 11 times this season, the attacking trio of Basiru the team's top scorer with three goals Shahrazen and Rodrigo Gral have hardly set the league on fire.

It is easier said than done though, considering both Basiru and Gral are in their first season with the club.

Gral has been getting some mixed reviews since joining, but the former Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos man has proved his worth with timely contributions.

The Brazilian netted DPMM FC's only goal during the fiery 1-1 draw against Harimau Muda, opening his accounts for the club by scoring the winner in their 2-1 result over then league leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) on March 11 in another crucial game.

The goal against Harimau Muda was the first time the Malaysians found their net breached, making the strike which came from a Basiru pass all the more memorable.

Last night also saw Tanjong Pagar United FC pick up their first victory of the season after Hafiz Osman netted in the 72nd minute to secure a 1-0 win over Geylang United FC in the bottom of the table clash at the Queenstown Stadium. Tanjong Pagar now move up to 11th from 12th to displace Geylang.

The result also means that the Courts Young Lions (Singapore Under-23 team) are the only team yet to pick up a point, languishing at the foot of the league but with only four games to their name, have played the least amount of matches this campaign.

Home United, in contrast, have taken to the field seven times so far.The Brunei Times

26 March 2012

Isa guns down Indera SC

Jason Thomas &
Ak Fauzi Pg Salleh

Monday, March 26, 2012

AN ISA Hj Bahar brace helped the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council (MS ABDB) to an easy 3-1 win over Indera Sports Club in last night's DST National Football League Group C action.

Opening the scoring in the 11th minute after beating Indera goalkeeper Ak Omar Nur Aqammadin Pg Hj Sallehudin in a one-on-one situation, he netted his second in the 77th minute after a through ball had sliced the Indera defence wide open.

Substitute Mohamad Zairol Kamat received the pass from midfield and a helpless Ak Omar Nur Aqammadin facing a two-on-one. Mohamad Zairol squared the ball to Isa, who found the back of the net despite a last ditch dive by Ak Omar Nur Aqammadin.

By then it was already 2-1, a Md Azwan Ali Rahman strike in the 67th minute boosting Indera's confidence but not doing enough for them to claw their way back against a fitter and faster MS ABDB side at the Balapan Track & Field, Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas.

Mohamed Amir Ajmal Mohamed Tahir made it 2-0 nine minutes after the break when he powerfully headed home a pin-point cross from Zool Hilmi Hj Abd Razak, though Indera's defence really should have done better marking Zool Hilmi and challenging Mohamed Amir Ajmal inside the box.

Putting out a fresh-faced team seven of the first 11 were Under-23 Indera found it hard to break down a well-organised MS ABDB defence.

MS ABDB's manager Major Suhaimi Jamali felt his team deserved to win last night and praised his men for their hard work.

Meanwhile, Adi Said was on the scoresheet as Majra FC started their league campaign on the right note after beating Menglait FC at the Stadium Kebajikan Berakas Sports Complex yesterday.

Adi opened the scoring in the 41st minute when he latched on to a ball from the corner kick.

A tactical change in the second half for Menglait proved to work as they equalised in the 58th minute to level the score to 1-1.

Adi limped out of the game in the second half after a strong challenged by a defender.

Majra FC continued to press heavily on the opposition defence in the dying minute of the second half and their effort was finally paid off in the 89th minute when Zimi Hj Bakirs cross was calmly tapped in by Ahmad Hafiz Said, the elder brother of Adi, to give Majra FC their first win of the season

Majra FC assistant coach Hj Mahadi Hj Md Zain was happy with his boys' performance but said that they need to improve on their stamina and fitness.

In other matches, a brace from Idris Lupat helped Lun Bawang defeated Besa FC 2-1 at the Balapan Track and Field in Berakas.

Jerudong FC handed Group B basement dwellers Seri Bolkiah 1 an 8-0 thrashing thanks to a Md Enddy Soehardy Awg Sapar hat-trick and braces by Md Asnawi Syazni Abd Aziz and Md Bazli Md Said. Md Shah Johan Hj Shari scored for Seri Bolkiah I.The Brunei Times

23 March 2012


SINGAPORE (23 March 2012) – A 1-1 draw against Harimau Muda was enough to give DPMM FC the top spot in the S-League in the match that was played last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The pulsating tie between the ambitious side from Brunei and against the gutsy side from Singapore was however marred by the sending off of DPMM coach Vjeran Simunic at the tail end of the game.

The action was end to end in the first half but neither team could make a difference to the score line. Following some sustained pressure after break, DPMM finally broke the deadlock in the 58th minute when Ghanaian striker Osman Basiru put the ball through for Rodrigo Gral to rifle home.

Harimau Muda’s chief coach Ong Kim Swee then brought in the battling Thamil Arasu and midfielder Muhamad Nazmi Faiz Mansor in the 64th minute to provide more bite upfront.

Four minutes later, the Malaysian youngesters finally nailed the equalizer for both teams to share the spoils. Gary Steven Robbat evaded his marker outside the box and unleashed a furious cannonball to beat DPMM custodian Wardun Yussof.

The draw kept Harimau Muda on fifth with their next game against the Young Lions on 25 March 2012.


18 March 2012

DPMM FC deserve to be leaders: Rivals

Jason Thomas

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THERE was no doubt in V Kanan's mind that Geylang United FC were second best on Friday night.

Suffering their fourth straight loss of the Singapore League (S-League) campaign by falling 4-1 to DPMM FC, the Geylang coach admitted his men didn't give Brunei's only professional football club enough of a fight.

The result at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas meant DPMM FC now sit pretty atop the 13-team S-League table with 10 points from four games and enjoy a game in hand over nearest rivals Home United FC.

Geylang, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the table without a win to their name.

"We conceded some silly goals," sighed Kanan, who was in charge of the team for the first time.

"Nevertheless, DPMM FC played some good football and they deserved to win.

"The boys worked very hard and I thought at 2-1 we could have come back.

"But I'm proud of my team this was their best performance in our four games," declared Kanan, who used to coach the club's Prime League team for 10 years and led them to the title last season.

After a promising start Shahrazen Said got DPMM FC on the scoresheet in the 23rd minute, with Ghanian striker Osman Basiru netting his third goal of the season 12 minutes later.

The team had their foot off the gas in the second half and were punished for it when Brazilian centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos lost the ball to Michael King inside the box. His last-ditch tackle felled the former Burnley player and resulted in a penalty kick which Jozef Kaplan cooly slotted home.

The visitors would enjoy more possession after the goal and did well to create space on the flanks, setting up a nervy few minutes for the home fans.

But dos Santos made up for his mistake by connecting on a superb free-kick from Croatian midfielder Ivan Jerkovic in the 78th minute, and they got their fourth goal in injury time when substitute Helmi Zambin's persistence led to him heading home his own rebound after a scything cross-field pass from Azwan Salleh the first goal of the season for both players

Brazilian striker Rodrigo Grahl had another quiet game for DPMM FC, which probably accounted for his substitution with Helmi six minutes before time.

Vjeran Simunic, though, said there was more to it than met the eye.

"Grahl played with injections today (Friday) so I must say he is very professional though it is risky," said the DPMM FC coach.

"Helmi had an excellent goal they were all excellent.

"My players gave 200 per cent for this win. But, Geylang really worked hard too and I'm not sure how they lost their last game 7-1," said the Croatian, adding that the team did make six changes from the side that self-destructed against Home United FC.

As confident as Simunic always is, he didn't want to answer questions on whether the Brunei team could maintain their good performance. He also didn't feel it was a problem that goalkeeper Wardun Yussof had not kept a clean sheet in any of their four games.

"Again, I'm happy with how we played just four days after our last game (against Albirex Niigata FC (S) on Sunday)," he said.

"We survived a horrible schedule ... If we got three draws from it I'd also be excited.

"We always fight from game to game. Even if we always win 3-1, 3-1 ... We'd still be champions.

"I'm very sorry for Wardun because this was a game he could have kept a clean sheet.

"But you must know, this is football, not a shopping centre."The Brunei Times

Ensuring smooth running of Nat'l Football League

Yee Chun Leong

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) held a briefing yesterday to ensure that everything runs smoothly for the remainder of the DST National Football League season.

Held at the Multipurpose Hall of the NFABD House in Berakas, the briefing was attended by representatives of all participating teams and other NFABD officials.

Present to chair the event was NFABD Secretary-General, Mohd Noor Hj Abdullah.

Issues brought up included punctuality, discipline and the latest schedule for the league matches.

The DST National Football League season had a one-month break to give way to the recently-concluded Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).

A Group A clash between FC Phosphor and Setia Perdana will kick things off once again on Friday at the Balapan Track & Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas at 8.15pm.

With a total of five games to be played next weekend, Berakas Besa FC will go up against Lun Bawang at the same venue on Saturday at 4.15pm.

Indera Sports Club and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB) will face each other on the same day at 8.15pm.

Last but not least, Majra United FC are set to take on Menglait FC while Jerudong FC will see action against Seri Bolkiah 1 on Sunday.

Both matches will be held at the Berakas Sports Complex in Berakas with the former to kick off at 4.15pm and the latter at 8.15pm.

Thirty-two teams divided into four groups are competing in the tournament, with winners and runners-up of each group gaining automatic qualification to compete in the elite DST National Super League, where they will be joined by the two best third-placed teams. The DST National Football League is expected to end on June 3.

There will also be the Top Scorer, Best Player, Best Goalkeeper and Fair Play Awards up for grabs.The Brunei Times

17 March 2012

4-star DPMM FC go top

Jason Thomas

Saturday, March 17, 2012

DPMM FC moved to the summit of the Singapore League (S-League) after a seemingly convincing 4-1 win over Geylang United FC last night, jumping five places and becoming the first team to break the 10-point barrier.

Though on paper the match against the basement dwellers wasn't meant to trouble the team, on the pitch, it proved to be a different story especially after the visitors promisingly powered forward after pulling back to 2-1 with a Jozef Kaplan penalty on the hour mark.

But weathering the storm, Brunei's only professional football club would add to their advantage with season-first goals from centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos and substitute Helmi Zambin, the latter's 90th minute strike ensuring all three points at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Their third win in four games, the ever-confident Vjeran Simunic was in a buoyant mood after the match.

"Absolutely! I feel we deserve to be on top," said the DPMM FC coach.

"It's like in Formula 1 we are now in pole position. I'm happy that we could one day be leading the league.

"The game is nothing surprising for me. I said it would be dangerous at 2-0 and a little mistake made it 2-1 ... But that's football," shrugged the Croatian.

With a 2-0 lead at the break, complacency started to creep into DPMM FC's game in the second half with the "little mistake" coming when dos Santos gave the ball away to an onrushing Michael King and brought the former Burnley player down in the box.

The Eagles would soar forward bolstered by the well-taken Kaplan penalty, but King's 71st minute shot with his back to goal was the best opportunity they would get to even the scores with Geylang failing to trouble goalkeeper Wardun Yussof for the rest of the match.

Shahrazen Said opened the scoring in the 23rd minute but Ghanian striker Osman Basiru did all the hard work.

Dribbling past three defenders on the left, he smashed a shot that bounced off the left post but was met with a half-volley from Shahrazen the fan favourite picking up his second goal of the season.

Capping off an encouraging combination on attack from all three of DPMM FC's forwards, the free-flowing second goal was bound to put a smile on Simunic's face where once again, the team were able to exploit space on the left.

Shahrazen evaded his markers and squared the ball to Brazilian striker Rodrigo Grahl who wisely laid it off to Basiru.

Rifling the ball to the top of the net, his third goal in four games has now made him the team's top scorer.

"I was confident I would score," grinned Basiru after the game. "I think I have been getting better every game ... I need to help the club," added the 23-year-old hitman.

Dos Santos brought the team back from their second-half lull when the lanky Brazilian headed home a pin-point free-kick from Croatian midfielder Ivan Jerkovic in the 78th minute, and Simunic's decision to replace the ineffective Grahl for Helmi in the 84th minute paid off when the diminutive 25-year-old headed in his own rebound after a searching cross-field pass from midfielder Azwan Salleh.

The Brunei Times

14 March 2012

DST National Football League all set to resume

Jason Thomas

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FC PHOSPHOR take on Setia Perdana next Saturday in the first DST National Football League match since the one-month break for the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).

Brunei football has been awash in jubilation since the national Under-21 team clinched the HBT for the first time since the biennial tournament was organised in 2002, topping the fourth edition of the regional meet after beating Indonesia 2-0 last Friday.

And now that the euphoria from the historic win is slowly beginning to die down, the local football league can take a front seat once again with the Group A clash between FC Phosphor and Setia Perdana at 8:15pm one of the five games to be contested next weekend.

Two more games will be played at the Balapan Track & Field, Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas Besa FC going up against Lun Bawang and Indera Sports Club hoping to gun down the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council (MS ABDB).

Both slated for next Sunday, the former will kick-off at 4:15pm while the latter is scheduled for 8:15pm.

Perennial favourites in any competition they enter, MS ABDB were denied the league title last season and believe they have some unfinished business to settle. The army men were enjoying a six-point advantage in the old DST Group Brunei Premier League (BPL) I when it was stopped on June 13, leading their manager, Major Suhaimi Jamali, to tell The Brunei Times earlier this year that they would be the team to beat.

Rounding off the list of five matches are the games between Majra United FC against Menglait FC and Jerudong FC against Seri Bolkiah 1.

The former will start at 4:15pm while the latter is set for 8:15pm, both at the Berakas Sports Complex.

Winners of the only national-level trophy handed out last season, the DST Group Brunei League Cup, Majra head into the game as the team to beat.

Organised by the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD), a new format of play has been introduced in the revamped league this season.

Thirty-two teams divided into four groups will be competing in the tournament, with winners and runners-up of each group gaining automatic qualification to compete in the elite DST National Super League, where they will be joined by the two best third-placed teams.

The DST National Football League is expected to end on June 3, after which the teams in the DST National Super League will be revealed.

A total of 166 goals have been scored in the 37 matches played to date, with Group A leaders Liang Lumut Recreation Club Football Team (LLRC FT) the league's on-form side after netting 23 goals - thanks largely to their 8-0 thrashing of Youngsters FC on Jan 9.

Winning all three of their games, their star player, Md Helmie Md Noorazmi, currently leads the league in scoring with six goals to his name.

In a Press release issued yesterday the competition's working committee stated that no matches will be played during public holidays or days when DPMM FC Brunei's only professional football team, which is currently competing in the Singapore League play their home games at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas, Bandar Seri Begawan.

The working committee also wished to remind teams that have yet to submit their full list of 25 players to do so before 4pm on Friday, March 16.

Teams are advised to contact NFABD House at 2380047 for more information.

The Brunei Times

DPMM FC topple Albirex Niigata FC

Jason Thomas

Monday, March 12, 2012

RODRIGO Grahl couldn't have picked a better time to score his first official goal for DPMM FC.

The Brazilian striker netted the winner in DPMM FC's 2-1 victory against former Singapore League (S-League) table-toppers Albirex Niigata FC (S) last night, celebrating his 59th minute lob over goalkeeper Takuma Ito by once again taking out a Brunei flag from his shin pad and displaying it to the crowd at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Serving the Japanese satellite team their first dropped points of the season, Grahl who used to play for Japanese heavyweights Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos helped DPMM FC climb up the 13-team ladder from ninth to fifth equal on points with Hougang United FC but trailing by goal difference.

For Abirex though, the loss combined with Home United FC's 7-1 demolition of Geylang United FC last night means the reigning Singapore League Cup champions drop to second, once again, equal on points with Home but trailing by goal difference.

Though Grahl netted during DPMM FC's 2-1 win over Thai Premier League (TPL) side Chiangrai United FC in January's pre-season friendly, where he celebrated in the same fashion, last night's strike was his first in a competitive match for Brunei's only professional club.

His strike partner Osman Basiru found the net in both of DPMM FC's previous two S-League games, and though the Ghanian wasn't on the scoresheet last night, he played a key part in the goal after redirecting the ball to Grahl with a clever pass inside the box.

DPMM FC right-winger Hj Muhd Subhi Abdilah Hj Bakir capped off a strong period of pressure from the hosts by heading home a cross from Azwan Salleh in the 13th minute, with teammate Ivan Jerkovic shooting over the crossbar on the half-hour mark.

The visitors equalised against the home team five minutes later through Sho Kamimura, who DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic likened to Barcelona's Lionel Messi before the game.

Catching the DPMM FC back line off guard, Toshikazu Soya scrambled for the ball on the right wing and deliver a cross to Kamimura who finished with an overhead kick.

DPMM FC skipper Rosmin Hj Kamis' corner was put away by Ito in the 54th minute and he also saw a 30-yard shot sail wide three minutes later, and while Basiru failed to really test Ito with two quick-fire attempts just past the hour-mark, the best chance to make it 3-1 fell to Azwan whose half-volley from outside the box was spectacularly pushed away for a corner in the 64th minute.

Albirex dominated the last few minutes of the game, with DPMM FC goalkeeper Wardun Yussof saving shots from Kamimura, substitute Yasuhiro Yamakoshi and Kunihiro Yamashita.The Brunei Times

10 March 2012

Brunei are HBT champs !

Jason Thomas

Saturday, March 10, 2012

BRUNEI football will never be the same again.

The national team captured the nation's heart last night by claiming the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) after a 2-0 win over Indonesia, a result that only the most fanatic of football fans may have imagined before the start of the fourth edition of the biennial tournament.

The Sultanate's greatest sporting achievement prior to this was the national team's 1999 Malaysia Cup win and last night's triumph trumps that considering the victory came against a national side and one that has long been regarded as one of the region's powerhouses.

Sure, the team had five overage (above 21) players in their ranks, but it was a team effort and a composed all-round play which won Brunei the championship.

Fans filled the 28,000 capacity Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas hours before kick-off, and stormed the pitch after the prize-giving, spent another half an hour taking photos and mingling with the players and coaches a sight that will forever live on in the memories of those present last night.

With His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam presenting his namesake trophy to captain Md Najib Hj Tarif after the match, the smile on the midfielder's face spoke louder than words.

It wasn't always smooth sailing for the hosts though.

Led by their influential captain Andik Vermansyah, Indonesia dominated the opening exchanges and the champions of the inaugural HBT in 2002 looked poised to make it a double if they kept controlling the midfield and starving Brunei strikers of a sight on goal.

But Brunei came out charging in the second half and got their opener from 17-year-old Md Aminuddin Zakwan Tahir in the 48th minute.

Striker Adi Said who was later named the tournament's best player made it 2-0 nearly half an hour later, and a resilient defence would close out the game with a clean sheet despite a late onslaught by the Merah Putih.

Adi's sixth minute shot on target was the first real chance for either side, though Brunei would fail to find their tempo until the half-hour mark while giving away possession cheaply.

Indonesia's Kurniawan had two attempts that were saved by Md Fakhrul Zuhazmi Yussof mid-way through the period, with Brunei's best chance of the half coming from right-back Md Azri Zahari who headed a Md Azwan Ali Rahman free-kick wide of the left post in the 40th minute.

Brunei got a lucky break three minutes after the restart when the Indonesian defence failed to clear a cross from the left, and with Md Aminuddin Zakwan inside the box, the right-winger needed no extra persuading to slot the ball home from close range.

The goal seemed to galvanise the Indonesians though Yosua Pahabol created two chances in quick succession.

Central midfielders Md Hendra Azam Md Idris and Md Nurikhwan Othman were just starting to make their presence felt and the former's injury and the inclusion of centre-back Reduan Hj Petara in the 70th minute didn't seem to affect their new-found rhythm.

Adi who ends the competition with four goals had a hard time finding space or winning aerial challenges, but the former Majra FC player has the hallmark of every deadly striker knowing how to put away chances when they present themselves.

A 75th minute through ball from Md Najib had Adi through on goal on the left and created a two-on-two situation, with Md Najib in support down the middle.

The ever-confident Adi easily dribbled past his marker and slotted past Aji Saka's right, his well-placed shot giving the Bruneian fans the certainty they needed that this would be their night.

Though Andik would threaten late on, the playmaker wasn't able to lift his team on his shoulders like he had throughout the tournament especially with a five-man defense awaiting.

The game's only blemish came after the goal when certain portions of the Bruneian and Indonesian crowd began throwing projectiles at one another, though many Indonesian fans were already streaking out of the stadium by then.

But for Brunei though, nothing can take the gloss away from the most memorable night in Brunei football for years.

The Brunei Times

09 March 2012

Can Brunei go all the way?

Yee Chun Leong

Friday, March 9, 2012

WILL it be a fairy tale ending for Brunei?

The national Under-21 football team are only one win away from the ultimate prize in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).

They will host Indonesia in the final tonight at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Brunei stunned tournament favourites Myanmar 3-2 in the semi-finals on Wednesday night to set up the encounter.

Indonesia, meanwhile, booked their berth via a 2-0 win against Vietnam in their semi-final matchup.

It is history in the making as this is the first time that the Sultanate have progressed to the final in their own biennial tournament.

National football coach Kwon Oh-Son felt that his boys are ready to rise up to the challenge but believes that it will be a close one to call.

"We have a golden opportunity tomorrow (Friday) but I believe that it will be a very close match and it will be an exciting one," said Kwon in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.

"The team morale is very good at the moment but we know that Indonesia are a very strong team. We have prepared our attacking organisation and our set pieces so hopefully we can score because we know that they (Indonesia) have got a strong backline," he added.

"The defenders will have to work hard together because Indonesia have got good players such as Andik (Vermanshah), Yosua (Pahabol) and Miko (Ardiyanto). I believe that the battle in midfield will be a crucial part of the game as well," continued the South Korean.

On the other hand, Indonesia assistant coach Liestiadi Lo believes that they have got what it takes to topple the hosts.

"Our initial target was really on how to make it into the semi-finals but now that we have gone forward, we only want to be champions. We have worked hard and we want to achieve that goal," said Liestiadi.

Asked on what will be key in the final, Liestiadi replied: "All the players on the team will be key in this matchup and we're glad that there are no injuries.

"Brunei have got some senior players on their squad while we have pure under-21 players but we are still optimistic to defeat them," he added.

"Our supporters are our 12th man as well and this is definitely good stimulation for the players," continued Liestiadi.

Indonesia, who won the inaugural edition in 2002, have constantly been getting a huge turnout of Merah Putih supporters and should get some backing once again for tonight's final.

Team manager Hazrul Azwar had confidently declared that they will be champions prior to the start of the competition.

So will there be heartbreak for the young wasps or will Brunei further create history in football?

The match kicks off at 8.15pm.

The Brunei Times

Fans name Andik as biggest threat to Brunei's challenge

Yee Chun Leong & Ak Md Fauzi Salleh

Friday, March 9, 2012

WHO will be crowned the champions of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT)?

The biennial tournament will see hosts Brunei take on Indonesia in the final today at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Fans from both teams have revealed predictions on who they think will be the champions at the end of today.

Aji, an Indonesian working in the private sector, felt that Brunei have got the edge in the match.

"Brunei have made really good progress from the start of the tournament. They have been playing as a team with a lot of passing," said Aji.

"Indonesia are a bit more stagnant and they tend to lose ball possession quite a bit," he added.

Another Indonesian, Darul, feels that it will be an evenly contested game but the Sultanate will have to be cautious of Indonesia's star player.

"Both teams are very good. As Brunei should already know, they will have to be careful of Andik (Vermanshah). He may be physically small but he is a really good player," said Darul.

Azim, 27, is rooting for the home side and trusts that they will lift the trophy.

"Brunei have been playing good but sometimes they can be inconsistent. They didn't show much of a game in the first half against Myanmar but were able to fight back in the second half," said Azim.

"They were able to beat one of the strongest teams in the tournament and Myanmar didn't even lose before that. Brunei will win this final," he declared.

According to Johari Hj Bungsu, the Sultanate will need another strong performance to topple Indonesia, who won the inaugural meet in 2002.

"Brunei have got what it takes to be champions if they can replicate the second half performance that they did against Myanmar," said Johari.

"They cannot give Andik (Vermanshah) and Kurniawan any chances. The duo are the main players and creators for Indonesia," he added.

Ujang Kassim, a 26-year-old Indonesian who works at a retail shop in Kiulap, felt that there were more important issues to the game.

"I will be watching the game tomorrow (Friday) after work with my fellow Indonesian friends, Insyaallah we can win this game. My prediction is 1-0 to Indonesia, it is good to have Brunei in the final, win or lose it is just a game. Indonesians and Bruneians will always have good relationships," he said

Compatriot Faikhul Khalimi, 23, who works at Lof Bakery hopes that his country will put up a show and take it all the way.

"I hope that Indonesia will play a good fair game tomorrow, Andik will be the key player for us. Andik is small but he can beat three to four defenders with his pace and skills, Andik will score two goals for Indonesia, 2-0 to Indonesia," he said.

A Bruneian undergraduate from Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Nina Abd Ghani, is certain that Brunei will create history.

"I hope the Brunei team can drive through the game with the aim of winning the final, and to persevere, they must get the trophy no matter what and we Bruneians will support them 110 per cent! We have full trust in the Brunei team this year," she said

"My prediction is 3-1 to Brunei, and to the Bruneian fans, cheer on the day and wear yellow," she added.

The Brunei Times

Will Brunei end fairy tale run on a high?


Friday, March 9, 2012

WILL Brunei be able to cap off their Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) campaign with a fairy tale ending?

The national Under-21 football team are just one win away from being crowned kings of the tournament but it will be no easy task with Indonesia standing in the way.

The HBT final kicks off tonight at 8.15 at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

08 March 2012

It's Brunei vs Indonesia in the final

Yee Chun Leong

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THERE were plenty of reason for Brunei to celebrate last night.

The history-making run continues for the national Under-21 football team as they are through to the final of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) after a 3-2 win over tournament favourites Myanmar in the semi-final last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

They will face Indonesia, who defeated Vietnam 2-0 in the other semi-final, tomorrow.

This is the furthest that the team have made in the competition having not progressed into the semi-finals in their past three attempts.

Brunei started off brightly and got their first chance in the ninth minute. Md Shafie Hj Effendy slipped behind the Myanmar defenders but was denied by keeper Pyaye Phyo Aung.

Midfielder Md Azwan Ali Rahman curled another shot almost immediately and it required the keeper to parry it above the crossbar.

Myanmar had their first chance through Thet Naing after he tested Brunei keeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof in the 16th minute.

Kyaw Ko Ko created a chance two minutes later after making his way into the box but Brunei's man in between the posts once again made the save.

Forward Adi Said almost put the home side up in the 20th minute after connecting on a Md Azwan freekick from midfield in the 20th minute but saw his attempt saved.

Pyae Phyo Oo was a constant threat on the left delivering pin point crosses into the box for Myanmar.

In the 25th minute, Mai Aih Naing weaved through the defence and found space but Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi once again made the save.

Myanmar were dominant with ball possession and finally broke the deadlock in the 31st minute.

Phyo Oo set up Aih Naing in the box but saw his shot blocked by a Bruneian defender. The deflected shot, however, fell nicely for Yan Aung Win to slot it down the middle to give Myanmar the lead.

Brunei were constantly on the back foot of the match but found themselves down only 1-0 at halftime.

The match took a turn for the better for the home side after they sent in the duo of midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris and defender Hazwan Hamzah in the 52nd minute.

The former got into the mix quickly. He delivered a freekick three minutes after entering the game to Md Nurikhwan Othman who rose highest to level the scores with his header, sending the Bruneian supporters into a frenzy.

Brunei should have gone in front in the 59th minute after Adi found space but his powerful shot was fumbled by the Myanmar keeper.

Phyo Aung recovered quickly and did just enough to prevent Md Aminuddin Zakwan Tahir to score on the rebound.

The Sultanate took the lead in the 61st minute after Adi played a good throughball for Md Azwan to score on a quick turn.

With the backing of a strong Brunei crowd at the 30,000 capacity stadium, the momentum of the match changed and Brunei were now constantly on the attack.

With high confidence, Brunei put the match to bed when Adi registered his fourth goal of the tournament after connecting on a corner kick by captain Md Najib Hj Tarif in the 79th minute.

Myanmar were pushing forward with time against them but Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi was on hand to ensure they maintain their two-goal cushion.

Myanmar were handed a lifeline after Ko Ko was brought down in the box late into injury time.

Captain Kyaw Zayar Win would step up to convert the penalty but it was too little too late as they were sent packing from the biennial tournament.

The Brunei Times

Final berth brings tears of joy to Brunei team manager

Yee Chun Leong

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THE national under-21 football team are just one game away from the ultimate prize.

They set up a final date with Indonesia tomorrow after a 3-2 win over tournament favourites Myanmar in the semi-finals of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

It was the first time in four tries that the Sultanate have made it so far in their own competition, being denied a semi-finals berth in the previous three editions.

Team manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff was literally brought to tears at the post-match press conference after all the hard work put in by the boys has paid off.

"We have overcome so many obstacles such as during the start of training and during puasa (fasting month). There were so many barriers but (all our efforts) have paid off," said an emotional Hj Feisal

The manager also didn't fail to credit those who have helped boost the team in the win.

"We would like to thank the Almighty God for helping us win this semi-final match and of course the crowd was fantastic right from the start of the match," he said.

"It really boosted the players and the Royal family really joined in the crowd in supporting us. We are really thankful for that," he added.

"This is the best performance by a Brunei team and we beat a respectable team like Myanmar. We want to salute the players and we were the better team tonight (Wednesday night)," he continued.

Though Myanmar dominated the match for the whole first half, the game changed for the better for the home team after they sent in the duo of Md Hendra Azam Md Idris and Hazwan Hamzah in the 52nd minute.

It proved to be the winning formula with two goals coming within 10 minutes after the substitutions were made.

Assistant coach Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak felt that they had played the cards right for the matchup.

"We were concentrating more on defence in the first half and making it a slow game. That was our strategy," said Hj Md Rosanan.

"We made two substitutions in the second half so that we can go on the attack more and it worked out," added the ex-national player and 1999 Malaysia Cup winner.

Asked on what the half time talk was about in the locker room when they were facing a 1-0 deficit, Hj Md Rosanan simply replied: "We just told them that they can do it."

Myanmar failed to send a representative to the post-match press conference.

The Brunei Times

'Captain Fantastic' downs Vietnam

Ak Fauzi Pg Salleh

Thursday, March 8, 2012

IT WAS Captain Fantastic who came to the rescue for Indonesia yesterday as he inspired his country to a 2-0 win over Vietnam to book a berth in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy final against Brunei tomorrow.

Andik Vermansah showed why he was elected skipper for his team by playing a hand in both of Indonesia's goals in yesterday's semi-final at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Both teams were evenly match from kick off, each trying to assert dominance and eager to score early on.

Miko Ardiyanto was the first to find the back of the net.

He managed to slip in front of Vietnam's goal keeper to head the ball into the goal following a superb cross by Andik in the 36th minute.

The second half saw Indonesia take control of the game.

Vietnam still had their moments but excellent defending by the Indonesians stifled any offensive momentum that their opponents had.

Andik doubled Indonesia's lead in the 70th minute when he cleverly dribbled past two defenders and slotted the ball into the right corner of the goal to make it 2-0.

Indonesia did not let up despite their lead.

They had the chance to further increase their lead in the 82th minute when Andik found himself in a one-on-one situation from the midfield just to see his shot fly over the bar.

Irvan Eric, a team official from Indonesia was impressed with the team's performance.

"I have seen all the games so far, and in the semi-final it is always a special game. You sometimes see players play better than they normally do because it is only one game, and our boys played very well tonight," he said.

"From what I have seen, Brunei has performed very well... Brunei look very confident," he added.

Indonesia assistant coach Liestiadi Lo, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of team work in last night's 2-0 victory.

"We are not thinking of the opponent (Brunei) that we will be facing in the final, we just going to focus on ourselves to prepare us in the final. We are satisfied with the players' performance tonight, they worked very hard in the game and they really deserved to win," he said.

"People are talking about Andik being the key player for us in this tournament but I think all players are important in this team," he added.

Vietnam assistant coach Pham Nhu Thuan, meanwhile, said they just could not keep up with their opponents' fitness.

"We had three to four players out with injury and our fitness was not at 100 per cent. Our young team of Under-19s were just not strong enough to beat Indonesia. They had very good fitness," said Nhu Thuan.

"It was also difficult because it was very hot. Our previous matches were played at night and the players didnt have enough concentration. But this experience is still good for our future," he added.

The Brunei Times

07 March 2012

Brunei won semifinal !

Brunei won the semifinal against Myanmar 3-2 in HBT 2012 today

They face Indonesia in the final

Brunei brace for tough Myanmar test tonight

Jason Thomas

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BRUNEI are fully prepared for what looks to be its biggest match in years.

The Sultanate faces tournament favourites Myanmar in tonight's semi-final at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas, with the game looking to be the largest test for many of the players in their young careers.

In the last four of its own tournament for the first time since the biennial event started in 2002, Brunei will have the hopes of the nation on their shoulders and Kwon Oh-son feels they can handle the pressure.

"It's a very big match for us and the players are all ready and focused," said Brunei's coach, who has led the team into the semis for the first time in three attempts.

"The most important thing for us is defensive organisation as soon as we lose the ball. We need to do that as fast as possible," he said.

"Kyaw Ko Ko is their best player and I know Myanmar head coach Park Sung-hwa has said Ko Ko who won the best player award in his country last year is the best striker in all of Myanmar," said the South Korean.

Another player Brunei will have to watch out for apart from Ko Ko who netted five times at last year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is captain Kyaw Zayar Win, the midfielder who currently leads the HBT goalscoring charts with five goals.

Brunei will have their own options in front of goal Adi Said being the deadliest.

Adi and Ko Ko are both tied on three goals heading into tonight's game.

Not only will key midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris be back in the Brunei team, Adi the team's top scorer after netting in each of the three games he has played in will be back from the suspension which kept him out of Brunei's 1-0 win over Timor Leste on Monday.

True enough, Myanmar's manager Soe Moe Kyaw admitted Adi will be one of the players his team will have to watch out for.

"Brunei have four or five good players. Big players. Players like (striker) Adi Said, (midfielder and captain) Md Najib Hj Tarif and (midfielder) Md Azwan Ali Rahman," said the manager yesterday.

"We've worked hard to reach the semis and Brunei also deserve to be here. Brunei is not only tough but have a lot of supporters.

"I'm sure the match will be very tough (but) we will try our best. They play very well and the team has good combination play.

"Ko Ko and Zayar Win will play but they have slight injuries," added the manager.

The Brunei Times

06 March 2012

Smile, we made history

Jason Thomas

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

THERE was no denying the look on their faces when they walked into the room.

They took their time getting there, but when the trio arrived at the post-match Press conference last night, it was smiles all around.

Kwon Oh-son had just created history after becoming the first coach to lead Brunei to the semi-finals of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT), and the South Korean shared his delight with his assistant Hj Mohd Rosanan Abdullah Samak and the team's manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff.

Brunei beat Timor Leste 1-0 to book a place in the Last 4 of its own biennial tournament for the first time in four attempts last night with Kwon overseeing the previous two unsuccessful attempts in 2007 and 2005.

"We played a good game tonight (Monday night)," grinned Kwon at the Press conference at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

"Timor Leste were strong ... We had five players injured ... but we were patient," added the coach.

Queen's seminal "We Are The Champions" rang out the stadium after the match, a song that Hj Feisal felt did not fit the occasion.

"It's not over yet. We face Myanmar in Wednesday's semi-finals," insisted the manager.

"Of course, we feel proud to be in the semis. The teams in the HBT are all very strong," he added.

Md Aminuddin Zakwan Tahir netted the only goal in the 18th minute, and though Brunei had their chances, the second half belonged to Timor Leste.

Brunei seemed content to sit back and soak the pressure, but Hj Mohd Rosanan felt there was nothing wrong with that.

"I'm not saying we were defensive ... We only needed a draw to progress, we were just cautious," said ex-national player and 1999 Malaysia Cup winner.

Despite looking the better team in the second half, Timor Leste's coach Norio Tsukitate failed to find any positives from his team's performance.

"How do I look? Happy? No, I'm crying," he grimaced when asked how he felt about the defeat. "We didn't score, so how can I be happy? It doesn't matter how many chances we created, we didn't score.

"I don't think we played better in the second half. We just switched some players about and that confused the Brunei side," added the Japanese.The Brunei Times

Brunei in HBT semis

Jason Thomas

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

AFTER 10 long years the wait has finally ended Brunei are in the semi-finals of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).

The Sultanate started the biennial tournament in 2002, and after failing to qualify past the group stage during the inaugural edition and again in 2005 and 2007, the pressure was on this year's team to deliver.

Tied on points with Timor Leste but edging them in the standings on goal difference, Brunei only needed a draw against them last night.

Md Aminuddin Zakwan Tahir made sure they went one better, his goal in the 18th minute ensuring Brunei would make it through at the expense of the visitors with a 1-0 result at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

They face Myanmar in tomorrow's semi-finals at the same venue, where another historic win will put them though to Friday's final against either Vietnam or Indonesia.

Captain Md Najib Hj Tarif underlined his importance to the team with the cross from the left which found Md Aminuddin Zakwan in the box, his close-range flick of the boot enough to give Brunei a lead they would valiantly defend until the final whistle.

The home of Brunei football, the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium was filled to the rafters for the epic match with the Royal Brunei Police Force even having to deny spectators entry.

The hosts were winning the midfield battle in the first half, and despite playing without suspended striker Adi Said, were encouragingly able to create chances.

But as expected, Timor Leste's superior physique and build handed them the edge in a defence marshalled by the lanky Raul Dias Monteiro Isac.

Though Brunei did well to press their opponents in the second half, their midfield started to crumble and they surrendered their superiority in possession with tired legs contributing to several astray passes.

Shotstopper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof was tested three times in the space of as many minutes around the hour-mark, his toughest test of the tie.

Playing as the lone striker, Ak Md Abd Halim Pg Hj Hassan was guilty for missing at least two genuine goal-scoring opportunities as the half wore down.

Timor Leste were getting increasingly desperate, evident by goalkeeper Emerson Carlos Cesario's decision to head up the field for a corner in the 84th minute which he easily won but was off the mark.

Midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris was sent on late in the game to shore up the five-man Brunei midfield, the experienced playmaker showing no signs of the ankle injury that he picked up during the side's 2-1 loss to Vietnam last week.

With Md Hendra and Adi set to feature again tomorrow, Myanmar better be warned.The Brunei Times

04 March 2012

Sea of yellow sinks M'sia

Jason Thomas

Sunday, March 4, 2012

HJ FEISAL Hj Eusoff felt the heavens were kind to Brunei last night.

Brunei's 3-0 win over Malaysia in last night's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) game was their second victory in the competition, and a result which helps them stay in contention for a place in Wednesday's semi-finals.

"Without God I don't think we would have won the game. God was with us tonight (Saturday)," said Brunei's team manager at the post-match Press conference at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

"The supporters were also amazing from the beginning until the end. The players really enjoyed playing with the supporters behind them.

"I hope the supporters will turn out in full force again for our last game against Timor Leste on Monday and wear yellow!

"I also appreciate all the support we got from His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Deputy Sultan, His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik and other members of the royal family (who were watching the game).

"The players worked very hard and they deserved to win tonight (Saturday). They were able to score those three goals because they were very confident and settled into the game ... Had a lot of touches," he added.

Despite Malaysia's Muhammad Hadin Azman shown his second yellow card four minutes before the break, Brunei were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage.

Hj Mohd Rosanan Abdullah Samak didn't think it mattered.

"We didn't play defensively (in the second half). We didn't need a goal what was important is that we were confident holding the ball," said the team's assistant coach.

"It doesn't matter whether it's four goals or five ... It's still three points," insisted the ex-national player.

Last night's defeat leaves Malaysia with just one point from three games and out of the running for a place in the last four, and their head coach felt the crowd at the 25,000-seat stadium which was filled to capacity was Malaysia's downfall.

With eight players promoted to the Under-23 team (Harimau Muda A), who are playing in the Singapore League, Malaysia brought a team of Under-19 players to Brunei and they looked the part. "I'm disappointed but what can I do?" said Ismail Ibrahim.

"Playing against the home team and this kind of crowd ... The pressure was on us. My players are not used to playing in this kind of big stadium. There must have been 25,000 or 30,000 people here tonight (Saturday).

"In the second half we tried to stay compact in the middle (but) Brunei played well."The Brunei Times

Brunei bully Malaysia

Jason Thomas

Sunday, March 4, 2012

-Royal support for Team Brunei

THREE goals inside the first 20 minutes paved the way for a crucial 3-0 win for Brunei over Malaysia in last night's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) match.

The victory, which was their second in three games, puts them tied for second in Group B with Timor Leste making for tomorrow's final group stage game between the two sides all the more enticing.

Brunei lead Timor Leste on goal difference and will only need a draw to progress to the semi-finals for the first time, and after last night's composed display, they can definitely get the job done.

Present to watch Brunei's victory last night were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Deputy Sultan, and His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik.

The 3-0 scoreline must be a surprise to table toppers Vietnam, who Malaysia held to a 0-0 draw during their opener last Saturday. With just one point from three games, Malaysia only have pride left to play for when they take on Cambodia in their final game tomorrow.

The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas was filled to the brim last night, and the strong home support helped Brunei stamp their mark on the match early on the first goal handing them a grip on the game they wouldn't relinquish until the final whistle.

Adi Said's glancing header after a cross from captain Md Najib Hj Tarif gave Brunei a deserved lead in the eighth minute, and piling on the pressure, the hosts would double their lead 10 minutes later through Md Aminuddin Zakwan Tahir.

Malaysia's defence was in sixes and sevens during another one of Brunei's surging runs forward, and failing to clear their lines, Md Aminuddin didn't need a second invite to pull the trigger from outside the box.

With momentum on their side, Brunei pushed forward in search of a killer third goal.

It took them only seconds to find it.

Adi and Md Aminuddin played some deft one-twos leading to the box, and Jay Han Gan was unlucky to see a shot deflected off him and into the net sparking a Mexican wave which was to be a re-occurring display on the night.

Malaysia's team to the HBT are filled with Under-19 players and they have yet to find their flow failing to string passes together and looking inept during set-pieces.

Their misery was compounded when Muhammad Hadin Azman was sent to an early shower in the 41st minute after Thai referee Mongkolchai Pechsri felt the forward dived when tackled in the box by Ak Md Abd Halim Pg Hj Hassan.

With Brunei continuing to control the game in the second half, a Malaysian comeback never looked likely.

Malaysia found it hard to penetrate Brunei's back-line which was led by a lanky Reduan Hj Petara.

The centre-back playing in place of midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris, who picked up an ankle injury during Brunei's 2-1 loss to Vietnam on Wednesday was also a force to be reckoned with during set-pieces, evident by his three headers which were saved in the second half, which was marked with restraint on Brunei's part.The Brunei Times

03 March 2012

End of Hendra's HBT campaign?

Jason Thomas

Friday, March 2, 2012

MD HENDRA Azam Md Idris's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) campaign is at risk after the ankle injury he picked up during Wednesday's 2-1 Group B loss to Vietnam.

A key cog in Brunei's midfield, he was on the wrong end of a two-footed sliding tackle in the 21st minute and left the field at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas long before his side would let in a heart-wrenching injury time goal to tournament favourites Vietnam.

"I'm not sure if I can play in the tournament again," said the midfielder when met at last night's HBT welcoming dinner at The Centrepoint Hotel in Gadong.

"I still can't use my boots and I'm on painkillers at the moment. My foot got swollen and I couldn't continue wearing boots (after the tackle).

"Something's wrong with the tissue. My foot was really swollen this (Thursday) morning, but it has got better now. I'll try wearing boots again tomorrow (Friday).

"I think the chances of me playing (in the HBT) again are 50-50. But, of course, I want to play again we have to win our next game against Malaysia (on Saturday)," insisted Md Hendra.

His first serious injury, the 23-year-old Bruneian was unhappy with not only its timing but the referee's (the Philippines' Jovanie Villagracia) decision not to brandish a card for it.

"He (the Vietnamese player) totally didn't get the ball. He also didn't get a card ... I feel the referee was against us," said Md Hendra.

"I've never been injured before and I feel totally sad about all of this. I was out after just 20 minutes ... that's too early," he sighed.

One of the five players to represent the country at November's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Jakarta, Md Hendra's absence from the national HBT team will no doubt be a big blow for the side.

However, striker Adi Said who along with Md Hendra, captain Mohd Najib Hj Tarif and defenders Md Azri Zahari and Reduan Hj Petara also saw action in Jakarta felt that the team would still function as a unit if Md Hendra could not feature during the biennial tournament again.

"We can still play as a team even if he isn't in the side, but of course, we hope he will recover in time to play again," said Adi, who sent the home crowd into a frenzy on Wednesday after stunning the Vietnamese side with a header in the fourth minute.

"I'm sad with the final result. It should have been a draw or a win. We had a lot of chances, but finishing was the problem.

"Our focus now is on our next two games against Malaysia and Timor Leste (on Monday). We must win them both,"he added.

The loss, which came courtesy of a Cao Xuan Thang header seconds before the final whistle after Phan Dinh Thang had equalised in the 53rd minute also didn't sit well with Md Azri.

"I'm sad we lost like that ... To a last-minute goal," said the defender.

"Md Hendra is a good midfielder with experience playing at the SEA Games and is an important part of the (national HBT) team," he added.The Brunei Times

01 March 2012

Wasteful Brunei gave the game away

Yee Chun Leong

Thursday, March 1, 2012

BRUNEI should have had it in the bag but were too wasteful and have only themselves to blame.

The Sultanate crumbled in the last minute of the game and succumbed to a 2-1 loss to Vietnam in Group B of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

"We had a few good chances but failed to convert. Should we have scored then it would have been a different story. Our players were just not focused and left their player open for a free header in the final play," said Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff, the Brunei team manager, in a post-match press conference.

"It was a 50-50 game and I believe we could have won it. Now we can only look forward and become a better team," he added.

One factor that changed the game was the injury to midfielder Md Hendra Azam Md Idris in the 21st minute after a malicious tackle by one of the Vietnamese players.

The team manager felt that the officiating of the match could have been better.

"We are sad about the judgement of the referee because there was no card given whatsoever when our player picked up a serious injury from the tackle," said Hj Feisal.

"It became a problem because he is one of our senior players. We thought that the referee's decisions at times were bad and some times failed to have the game under control.

"Fouls were even given when the tackle is clean and it distracted the mentality of the players in a way," he said.

The loss may be heartbreaking but assistant coach Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak can seek refuge in the team's performance yesterday.

"I thought we played a good game but we had a slip up just at the end. I thought the stamina of the team was alright as well," said Hj Md Rosanan.

"There are still areas that require improvement in our game especially with the focus and concentration. It is important that we do it for the whole 90 minutes," he added.

The Brunei Times

Heartbreak for Brunei

Yee Chun Leong

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vietnam triumph with final minute goal

IT WAS total heartbreak for Brunei after Vietnam came away with all three points following a goal late into injury time for a 2-1 victory in Group B of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

On a day celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries, Cao Xuan Thang broke the hearts of all Brunei football fans by heading home a Nguyen Van Manh corner kick in the final minute of the match.

Present to watch the game was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

Also in attendance were Their Royal Highnesses Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, the Honorary President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) and Prince 'Abdul Malik.

The victory also boosts the pre-tournament favourites' chances on making it into the next round with seven points from three games while Brunei only have three points to their name after two outings.

Brunei came out the better team and were focused, going on the attack early.

Hitman Adi Said got the home crowd into a frenzy early after he stunned the Vietnamese side with a goal by heading in a corner from captain Md Najib Hj Tarif in the fourth minute.

They could have doubled their lead just minutes later but a cross by Abd Mu'iz Sisa from the left failed to connect with any of the Bruneian players.

Vietnam almost levelled in the 18th minute after Van Manh had beaten Brunei goal keeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof with his freekick but saw his effort bounce off the post.

It was a blow for the hosts when Md Hendra Azam Md Idris was stretchered off the field in the 21st minute after a strong challenge by Vietnam.

Md Shafie Hj Md Effendy was called in to take over the duties of the midfielder.

The match was physical with the whistle getting blown often, preventing both teams from gaining momentum.

Vietnam came close to equalising in the 36th minute after Xuan Thang whipped in a cross just for Md Azwan Ali Rahman to deflect it towards his own goal but Md Fakhrul was at the right place at the right time to make the save.

Vietnam came out a different side after the break and were playing at a fast pace.

It paid off in the 53rd minute after poor defending by the Bruneian backline saw Phan Dinh Thang equalise from inside the box.

A small Vietnamese crowd started getting behind their team and Brunei found themselves struggling to cope with their opponents' crosses.

Brunei could have easily gone back in front but were wasteful as they had three shot opportunities in the span of three minutes.

Adi should have put Brunei ahead in the 73rd minute but saw his shot cleared off the line by a Vietnamese defender.

Md Azwan had the second attempt but his effort was denied by the post.

Adi had another golden opportunity in the 75th minute but failed to convert in a one-on-one situation against Vietnam keeper Le Van Nghia.

The home team were also fortunate to not lose Md Azri Zahari on a rough tackle on Xuan Thang in the 88th minute.

The match was heading for a draw before Xuan Thang made the Sultanate pay the price.

"We had an inexperienced team out in the first half and they were going for the long ball. We didn't get many chances but we managed to make several changes in the second half for good passing and control to create more chances," said Pham Nhu Thuan, the assistant coach of Vietnam, in a post-match press conference.

"We now have seven points from three games and I believe that we have a good chance on making it into the semi-finals," he added.

The Brunei Times