BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
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