The AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifying round opened in sensational fashion this evening as Brunei delivered an awesome performance to edge Timor Leste 2-1 at the National Olympic Stadium.
Snatching three points is a major step forward for Brunei, who like their three other rivals here, are gunning to claim the top spot and secure their place in the final round.
“It was a very tough game against Timor Leste. And if you had asked me before the match if we are going to win this one, I would not have been too sure of what’s to expect,” said Brunei head coach Mike Wong.
“We know that we can be competitive throughout the three games and this afternoon we came back later in the game to win the three points.”
While many expected the heat to keep the pace in the first half at a reduced rate, the players defied the elements and came out fighting. Incredibly, the players did not seem bothered by the scorching conditions to take the fight to their opponents.
But with so much at stake, the teams had every reason to want to make the best of the situation to get their show on the road. With only one team qualifying through to the final rounds, all four teams are in a hurry to collect as many points as they can.
After several quick raids in, Timor Leste stunned their rivals by taking advantage of a defensive slip-up to score through Rufino Walter Gama in the 11th minute. But their joy was short-lived as Brunei notched a brilliant equaliser 10 minutes later. Adi Said sneaked in behind the defence and nodded the ball home at the far post.
In the 28th minute, Muhammad Maududi Hilmi broke through but with only the goalkeeper ahead of him, failed to get a good shoit in.
Brunei were celebrating just a minute later when Mohammad Shafie Mohd Effendy gained possession and quickly raced down the left; he cut right, then cut left past a defender before ramming his team ahead. As thing went, that goal turned out to be the winner which Brunei would have to slog to defend for the remainder of the match.
Timor Leste, with the likes to Ruffino and Henrique Wilson leading the attack, threw everything they had at their opponents but despite their best efforts were unable to make their shots count. For a brief second in the dying minutes, Timor Leste thought they had notched the equaliser but the assistant raised his flag.
To Brunei’s credit, the team remained disciplined in defence which helped them defend the score all the way to the end.
“Today we did not lose to Brunei but rather we lost this game to ourselves,” said Timor Leste head coach Fabio Maciel.
“We were not playing the way we should be playing and this is something which we need to work on for the next game.”