DPMM FC's Joao Moreira (R) dribbles past Tanjong Pagar United FC's Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin in their Singapore League game in April. Moreira bagged a hat-trick in DPMM FC's 5-2 win against Tanjong Pagar in last night's Singapore League Cup quarter-finals. Picture: Infofot
A Joao Moreira hat-trick inspired DPMM FC to a 5-2 comeback against Tanjong Pagar United FC last night, the result booking the Bruneians a berth in the semi-finals of the Singapore League Cup after a five-goal second half performance.
A brace by debutant Arturas Rimkevicius meant that it was a successful night for DPMM FC's imports at the Queenstown Stadium in Singapore, and the defending champions are now one step closer to retaining the crown they won after beating Geylang International FC last year.
Rimkevicius was just signed on Wednesday, and Moreira has not been training for a month due to a hamstring strain - making the win all the more impressive.
However, DPMM FC were trailing 2-0 at the break before sparking into life, a fact which should worry coach Vjeran Simunic as his side prepares to meet Woodlands Wellington FC in Thursday's last-four at the Woodlands Stadium in Singapore.
Tanjong Pagar's Hafiz Nor opened the scoring in the third minute for the hosts, and as expected, Monsef Zerka - the Singapore League joint top-scorer - also got on the scoresheet after netting in the 28th minute.
Simunic's half-time team talk must have done the trick as it took the visitors just two minutes until the floodgates opened.
Portuguese Moreira cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 47th minute and Rimkevicius evened the tie in the 55th minute.
Moreira gave DPMM FC the lead in the 64th minute, Rimkevicius made it 4-2 four minutes later before his new strike partner sealed a memorable win with a 71st minute penalty - the goals all his first of the League Cup campaign.
"He really deserved the hat-trick," said striker Shahrazen Said of Moreira, who already leads the team in scoring with six S-League goals.
"We all played in a free role in the second half and we were able to come back even though we were down 2-0," added Shahrazen, who scored in the team's previous two group matches - a 2-1 win over Warriors FC and a 2-1 loss to Balestier Khalsa FC.
Woodlands advanced to the semi-finals after beating Geylang 4-1 on penalties after a goalless stalemate in last night's other game played at the Bedok Stadium in Singapore.
DPMM FC will have to make do without left-back Sairol Hj Sahari on Thursday after he was sent off in the 81st minute of last night's tie against Tanjong Pagar.
The other semi-final pits Albirex Niigata (S) FC against Balestier.
Despite the loss of Sairol and DPMM FC's sluggish start last night, Simunic can take many positives away from the game against the Jaguars, who lead the S-League in scoring with 25 goals in 14 games.
The Croatian will no doubt be pleased with the performance of debutant Rimkevicius, the record goal scorer from the Lithuanian A-League.
Playing for Siauliai, the striker bagged 35 goals in 27 games last season breaking the 58-year-old record of 28 goals.
He also scored another six goals in the Lithuanian Cup, bringing his tally to 41 goals.
"I think anyone who scores goals in any league, it's like a habit and I think he will be able to help us with that,"said Simunic when the striker was signed.
"From the first moment I checked on him I could see that he would be able to adopt the Brunei life and game.
"I've said many times that it is important for the import players to be accepted and respected by the players... (and) I have seen that he has the personality that can be accepted," added the coach, who must know that last night's performance will no doubt have earned Rimkevicius even more respect from his new teammates.