National football head coach Kwon Oh-son (R) speaks to one of his players before the start of the second-half of last night's friendly match against Sabah. Brunei are using their friendlies against Sabah to decide on their first-11 for next week's HBT competition. Picture: BT/ Ak Fauzi Pg Salleh
The national Under-21 football team left it till late to salvage a 1-1 draw against Sabah in a friendly in preparation for next week's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).
Brunei's Mohd Nurikhwan Othman scored in the 92nd minute to cancel out Marwan Sayedeh's opener in the 59th minute at the Balapan Track and Field at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex last night. DPMM FC players - striker Adi Said, midfielders Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris, Najib Hj Tarif and goalkeeper Azman Ilham Hj Md Nor - all featured in the game.
Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff was pleased with the result but the manager has yet to decide on his first-11 for the August 9 to 23 tournament. "A draw is already a good result for us given that we have some injuries in the team and DPMM FC will be playing tomorrow (today) so we cannot have them playing full time," said the manager in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
DPMM FC will take on Hougang United FC in the Singapore League (S-League) at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas tonight. "We have three good chances in the game and we were very unlucky not to score, I hope that we can continue the play and the discipline when we take on Sabah again on Tuesday so that we can decide on the starting 11," added the manager.
Mohd Hendra Azam got the chance to put Brunei ahead at the half-an-hour mark when he was given plenty of space following a poor clearance from Sabah's defence but the midfielder fired his shot just wide. Adi missed his golden opportunity to score a few minutes later when he was set through inside the penalty box by winger Asri Hj Aspar from the left but the striker couldn't find the target.
Winger Asnawi Syazni Hj Aziz also came close to scoring in the 40th minute following a through ball from Mohd Hendra Azam from the midfield but the winger powered his shot just a few inches over the bar. Adi and Mohd Hendra Azam were taken off at the start of the second-half and Sabah were in control of the game with striker Marwan and midfielder Andre Reinaldo Esponito coming close on multiple occasions, only to be denied by goalkeeper Abdul Hafiz Abdul Rahim who had a brilliant game.
The Malaysian Premier League side continued to control the game and finally broke the deadlock in the 59th minute when Marwan slammed home Esponito's cross from the left with a volley to defeat Abdul Hafiz in goal, but Mohd Nurikhwan would come to Brunei's rescue in the 92nd minute when he headed home Mohd Nur Azees Ali's cross from the right.
Defending champions Brunei kick off their title defence against Cambodia on Saturday at the regional Under-21 tournament. They will take on Indonesia on August 11 before facing Singapore two days later.
Brunei will go up against Vietnam on August 16 before locking horns against Malaysia two days later in their final game in the group stage.