DPMM FC's Shahrazen Said
(L) chasing down the ball
during an earlier match
against Tampines Rovers FC.
DPMM FC will play Tampines
tonight at the Hassanal
Bolkiah National Stadium,
Berakas. Picture: BT file
DPMM FC will face arguably their toughest home test of the season when they take on Singapore League (S-League) leaders and defending champions Tampines Rovers FC tonight.
Brunei's only professional club have yet to beat the Stags in three tries, and in each of those instances, Tampines came up with 90th minute goals to salvage the games with two of them ending in draws and the other in a DPMM FC loss.
When DPMM FC faced Tampines in last season's second S-League meeting, they were at the summit of the 13-team table with 29 points from 12 games and were in contention for the title.
But it will be a different situation come tonight with DPMM FC who were expected to challenge the Stags for the title they lost out on by one point currently lying ninth in the table with only 24 points after 19 games, while Tampines are sitting pretty at the summit with 44 points and look almost certain to win the league again.
With the Stags ability to produce a dying-minute goal in each of their previous games, DPMM FC's coach Vjeran Simunic believes that tonight's clash will promise to be another exciting encounter.
"They are now at the top of the league and a lot of people will say they are favourites to win the match," said the Croatian.
"But if you look at our previous record against them (Tampines) we were always very close to winning the games.
"We are now 24 points behind Tampines in the league, so I will be crazy to say that we are going to win the match for certain," added the reigning S-League Coach of the Year.
One thing Simunic would have done for certain, though, would be to remind his players of how deadly Tampines have proved to be against them in the closing stages.
Khairul Amri Mohammad Kamal's 90th minute strike cancelled out Portuguese Joao Moreira's goal in the first of their two S-League games on April 16, a match which ended 1-1 at the Clementi Stadium in Singapore.
The same away tie last season saw a defensive lapse let in Gligor Gligorov at the back, the midfielder scoring a 90th minute goal in their 1-0 win on June 15.
Just as heartbreaking was last season's home game, which marked DPMM FC's return to the S-League after two years but had the party spoiled when Tampines staged a late comeback to bag a 90th minute goal and force a 2-2 draw on Feb 12.
Apart from changing imports mid-way through the season, injuries have also played a large part in DPMM FC's poor 2012/2013 campaign, with left-back Sairol Hj Sahari the latest causality after suffering a meniscus tear.Apart from changing imports mid-way through the season, injuries have also played a large part in DPMM FC's poor 2012/2013 campaign, with left-back Sairol Hj Sahari the latest causality after suffering a meniscus tear.
"We are very unlucky this season with injuries... Sairol is now out for three months," said Simunic.
"Rosmin (captain Rosmin Hj Mohd Kamis) only played 15 minutes on Wednesday (against Balestier Khalsa) and he will start on Sunday, and I hope Shahrazen (straiker Shahrazen Said) can step up his game too.
"Subhi (midfielder Hj Subhi Hj Abdillah Bakir) will be back soon from injury and I am also happy with how Azwan (Azwan Ali Rahman) has improved over the months (after also being injured).
"But once again, I would like the fans to come and support us and to get behind the team on Sunday," he added.
DPMM FC managed to salvage a 1-1 draw on Wednesday against Balestier when Tales Ricarte dos Santos' emerged as the hero after scoring a stunning volley nine minutes from time after Qiu Li put the visitors ahead with a 15th minute penalty which Simunic still feels sore about.
"I respect Qiu Li, he is a fantastic player, but it was clear that he dived to get the penalty," said the coach.
"We could have won and get all the three points."