DPMM FC's Joao Moreira (L) and
Arturas Rimkevicius (C) during
a training session earlier
this month. The duo scored
all the goals in the club's
5-2 win against Tanjong Pagar
United FC on Sunday night.
Picture: BT/Jason Thomas
New imports and an upturn in fortunes have led to Vjeran Simunic hailing DPMM FC's "new era" for the country's only professional club.
The Singapore League Cup titleholders mounted a rousing 5-2 comeback win against Tanjong Pagar United FC on Sunday night to book their place in the last-four of the competition, where they will meet Woodlands Wellington FC on Thursday.
DPMM FC were down 2-0 before their import duo of strikers Joao Moreira and debutant Arturas Rimkevicius led a revival with a hat-trick and brace respectively.
Moreira pulled a goal back two minutes after the break and Rimkevicius drew level in the 55th minute before Moreira gave DPMM FC the lead in the 64th minute.
Rimkevicius helped DPMM FC extend their advantage four minutes later and Moreira's 71st minute penalty sealed the deal.
But for Simunic, more impressive than the win against the Singapore League top scorers was the way DPMM FC played throughout the game at the Queenstown Stadium in Singapore.
"Though we went into the break down 2-0, I was still very happy with my players since we played well, had many chances and forced their goalkeeper into several saves," Simunic told The Brunei Times yesterday.
"I told the players at half-time that 2-0 was nothing. If we scored an early goal, it could easily become 2-2 and 3-2.
"I'm proud with how we've been playing the past few games and couldn't have asked for more from my players.
"We can now speak about the rising quality of the team, of our fighting spirit, of how the new players have been accepted and how they've bonded with the team.
"This is a start of a new era for us," insisted the Croatian.
Though Portuguese Moreira has been with the club since the start of the season, Lithuanian Rimkevicius who is the record goal scorer in the Lithuanian A-League was only unveiled last week, with Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Tosi making a return to the club he left in 2006 on June 3, with Brazilian Tales Ricarte Dos Santos completing the club's four-man import list.
Simunic said he was always going to give Rimkevicius some playing minutes on Sunday night, a decision that was reinforced when the visitors went down 2-0 after Monsef Zerka's 28th minute strike added to the 3rd minute lead Hafiz Nor gave the hosts.
The reigning S-League Coach of the Year replaced midfielder Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris with Rimkevicius in the 33rd minute, and the rest is history.
"I had to change Hendra (midfielder Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris) after the second goal, I couldn't wait until it was 3-0," said Simunic.
"My plan was always to give Arturas a chance (to play against Tanjong Pagar), but I didn't want to do it so early.
"It's fantastic that he is with us now... He just joined and if he started (the game) perhaps there would have been too much pressure on him to score.
"The situation changed when he came in... He moved to the left, Moreira was in the middle, Shahrazen (Said) on the right and Tosi played just behind them.
"Now we're still alive in all three competitions (including the Singapore Cup) and we'll take things game by game... We're never arrogant and always keep both feet on the ground.
"I have to thank Tanjong Pagar for the motivation they gave us.
"In Singapore the media have said that Tanjong Pagar will surely win because they killed us in Bandar," he said, referring to the 1-0 DPMM FC were handed when the two teams last met in the S-League in April.