News • July 22, 2016
Written by: Ryan Low
Tampines Rovers’ eight-match winning streak under coach Akbar Nawas came to an end on Thursday night as Brunei DPMM won 2-1 to finish top of Group A in The New Paper League Cup.
DPMM substitute Azim Izamuddin proved to be the hero as he scored the winner in the 86th minute, after Tampines’ Billy Mehmet had cancelled Adi Said’s first-half opener.
Tampines had started off the better side and almost scored on 16 minutes, with Gautam Selvamany raking the left-hand post from close range after striding onto Mehmet’s defence-splitting pass.
DPMM showed how it should be done eight minutes later, with Adi producing a stupendous bending free kick from 20 yards out that went in off the crossbar.
Steve Kean’s charges could have gone into the half-time break 2-0 up, but Tampines goalkeeper Joey Sim pulled off a stunning save to deny Brian McLean’s goal-bound header from point-blank range.
Tampines came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with Saifullah Akbar hitting a powerful volley from outside the area that DPMM custodian Wardun Yussof had to stretch to tip over.
The game was then disrupted for more than half an hour due to the Lightning Warning System (LWS), before resuming in the 60th minute with the Stags refusing to cower.
Akbar’s charges were eventually rewarded for their determination as they found the equaliser 15 minutes later.
When Jufri Taha was impeded by a clumsy Yura Indera Putera challenge inside the area, Mehmet stepped up to send Wardun the wrong way from 12 yards out to restore parity.
However, the Stags were unable to hold out for a draw as they allowed DPMM to grab a fortuitous winner in the dying minutes.
Sim failed to adjust his feet in time to clear after receiving a back-pass from Noh Rahman, with Azim nipping the ball off him before prodding gleefully into an empty net for the match winner.
The result meant DPMM topped Group A and will meet the runners-up of Group B in the first semi-final, while Tampines finished second and will meet the winners of Group B in the other semi-final.
Brunei DPMM head coach Steve Kean: “I’m delighted with the result; we showed that there’s more than one way to win a game. Tampines were setting the ball better; we were poor in that aspect and we just could not penetrate without (Paulo) Sergio.
“But we were dogged and tough to break down; we did what we had to do. Sometimes when you’re playing badly, you can still win by earning that little bit of luck. After a very terrible spell at the start of the season, we have won four on the bounce now and we have to keep going.”
Tampines Rovers head coach Akbar Nawas: “I wasn’t counting (the number of games unbeaten) because that’s where you lose focus. Who doesn’t want a history of unbeaten records? But I wanted them to play football.
“I told the players before the game that the result is for me to take; what I want to see is the performance. The younger players lose out a bit physically, but they played their hearts out and they gave DPMM a run for their money until the second goal.
“I’m sure Joey will be disappointed with himself (for that mistake), but the team and I will back him up.”
Brunei DPMM: Wardun Yussof (GK), Abdul Aziz Tamit, Yura Indera Putera, Brian McLean, Helmi Zambin, Azwan Salleh (C) (Hendra Azam 10’), Maududi Hilmi (Azim Izamuddin 46’), Najib Tarif, Adi Said, Rafael Ramazotti, Azwan Ali (Shahrazen Said 90’)
Tampines Rovers: Joey Sim (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Noh Rahman (C), Irwan Shah, Fabian Kwok, Jordan Webb, Gautam Selvamany, Saifullah Akbar, Ariyan Malik, Billy Mehmet