DPMM FC's Irish striker Roy O' Donovan during a training session on Wednesday. O' Donovan got on the scoresheet during DPMM FC's 2-2 draw against Balestier in their Singapore League Cup Group D game at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore last night. Picture: Courtesy of S-League, BT/Yee Chun Leong
DPMM FC captain Rosmin Hj Mohd Kamis holds off Balestier Khalsa FC's Qui Li in their Singapore League Cup final last year. Picture: Courtesy of S-League, BT/Yee Chun Leong
DPMM FC played out a 2-2 draw with titleholders Balestier Khalsa FC in their Singapore League Cup Group D opener last night.
Brunei's only professional team went in front twice through Rodrigo Tosi and Roy O'Donovan, but a brace by Goran Ljubojevic ensured that the two teams would share the spoils at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
The result was a far cry from the last time the two teams met in the tournament.
Balestier beat DPMM FC - who were the then reigning champions - 4-0 in last year's final, preventing Brunei's most successful football team a hat-trick of Singapore League Cup victories after lifting the cup in 2009 in 2012.
Last night's stalemate means that DPMM FC only require a draw or a loss by less than three goals against Hougang United FC at the Hougang Stadium on Monday to progress to the quarter-finals after Hougang beat Balestier 3-0 in their on Tuesday.
DPMM FC were the better team in the first half but failed to convert any of their chances in front of goal last night. It could have been disastrous for Balestier in the third minute after Ljubojevic deliberately handled the ball inside the DPMM FC box, but was fortunate not to receive a booking.
The Tigers had the first real chance of the match in the 10th minute after a counterattack, but Muhaymin Salim could only see his attempt sail inches off the post. DPMM FC midfielder Roberto Alviz struck a good free-kick from the edge of the box five minutes later but his effort went straight into the hands of Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam.
O'Donovan should have got his name on the scoresheet in the 21st minute but his shot was just wide off the post.
The Irishman then had the best chance for the Brunei side in the first half in the 34th minute after captain Rosmin Hj Mohd Kamis put him through on goal. However, Zaiful prevailed in the resulting one-on-one situation.
Tosi had a volley from outside of the box on target in the 39th minute but Balestier custodian Zaiful once again made a stop to keep the match goalless. Another opportunity came begging two minutes later but Adi Said failed to connect on O'Donovan's cross at the far post.
DPMM FC continued to push forward in the second half and Tosi put O'Donovan through on goal, but Zaiful came off his line to deny the former Sunderland striker. DPMM FC were awarded a penalty after Nurullah Hussein handled the ball inside the box in the 53rd minute, with Tosi converting the ensuing spot-kick to break the deadlock despite Zaiful diving to the right direction.
The match sprung into life and Balestier were desperate to keep their hopes of making it into the next round alive. Balestier substitute Ahmad Syahir should have scored from Kim Minho's cross into the box in the 65th minute, but the hosts would finally equalise four minutes later with Ljubojevic converting a Syed Thaha cross from inside the box.
Park Kang Jin was given plenty of space inside the box to fire one past goalkeeper Wardun Yussof only to be denied by the post in the 73rd minute. The woodwork came to DPMM FC's rescue two minutes later after another attempt by Ahmad.
DPMM FC regained the lead off a counter-attack with O'Donovan finishing off a Joe Gamble cross in the 78th minute, but Balestier replied once again in the 83rd minute when Kim had his shot denied by Wardun - only for Croatian Ljubojevic to pounce on the rebound.
Tosi almost produced a winner two minutes later but his header was denied by the crossbar. DPMM FC nearly stole all three points two minutes into injury-time after substitute Shahrazen Said pulled the ball back for an unmarked Boris Raspudic inside the box.
However, the Bosnian defender saw his effort go agonisingly wide over the bar. The night's other match saw Woodlands Wellington keep their quarter-fnal hopes alive after edging Singapore Recreation Club 1-0 in Group B action.
A goal by Bah Mamadou in the 29th minute separated the two sides at the Woodlands Stadium in Singapore. Woodlands were thrashed 6-1 by Home United FC in their opener at the same venue on Tuesday.
The competition continues today with a rescheduled Group C match between Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC at the Clementi Stadium in Singapore. The match that was initially scheduled for Thursday was abandoned due to technical faults and safety reasons. Kick off is at 8pm.