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Tuesday, July 10, 2001

M-League - Brunei get three valuable points

By Benny Ang

Brunei bounced back from their weekend defeat to edge out KL Malay Mail 1-0 last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in a hard-fought battle to get their promotion push back on track.

Coach Mick Jones sprang a major surprise when he decided to play Wardun Yussoff in goal instead of Alizanda Sitom after some impressive performances with the Brunei world cup qualifying team.

Alizanda, on the other hand, had been a player short on confidence and ultimately paid the price for some recent shaky performances between the posts.

In the outfield, the returning Saifful Rizal Awang was favoured ahead of Shahrol Rizal in a straight defender for defender swap while Irwan Mohammad's one match suspension meant a slight change in formation with Riwani Wahit playing wide right and Ak Shahrom and Radiman Rahman playing up front.

The first half was hardly a footballing spectacle with both sides playing some very scrappy football void of any real quality, the only highlight being Ak Shahrom's well-taken goal in the 11th minute.

The goal was created by some crafty work from Fadlin Galawat, who after beating two players in his own half, slotted a perfectly-timed through ball to spring Ak Shahrom and beat KL Malay Mail's offside trap.

Their was still some work to do but Ak Shahrom kept his cool to race in on goal and curl his effort beyond the outstretched Md Zaidi Md Hanifa in the Malaysians'goal.

Subhi Abdillah, Brunei's leading goalscorer this season, had a great chance in the fourth minute when he just failed to connect with a Saiful Rizal header but apart from that, Brunei's chances were really far and few in between.

KL Malay Mail probably had the better of the possession of the first half but failed to really test Wardun in his Malaysian League debut, their best chances coming midway through the period when Sharimin Hairul was forced to clear off the line while a U.Suresh free kick barely missed Wardun's right hand post.

With Jones having requested for his players to stand up and be counted for, it was hardly a surprise then that physical play was the order of the first half with both teams struggling to put together fluent passing movements.

And if it was a battle that Jones wanted, then it looked as though KL Malay Mail were all too willing to give him one as to their credit, their players hardly shirked from a tough tackle all night long.

But with a 1-0 lead to their name, Brunei were looking to protect their lead and it was up to KL Malay Mail to force their way back into the game.

The visitors started the second half brightly and forced Wardun into his first real test in the 61st minute, the debutant doing well to hold on to a fiercely hit free kick that had to be retaken after Riwandi had been booked for charging down the first one.

But if anyone expected the chaos from the first half to subside, they were sadly mistaken as the second half proved to be as frenetic if not more than the first period.

It was obvious that Irwan's presence was sorely missed as he was perhaps the one player that might have been able to add a touch of quality to the midfield area. With the game being played at breakneck speed, it really needed a player with Irwan's ability to put his foot on the ball and control the tempo.

Without him, Brunei had to make do with the scraps of possession they were afforded by the gutsy KL Malay Mail team and hence really failed to test the opposition keeper in the second half.

Still Brunei kept their calm in the face of adversity and remained unflappable when it mattered most. It may not have been the prettiest of victories and Jones will be the first to admit that but it is a victory nevertheless and three valuable points towards their cause.

Source: Borneo Bulletin

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