Brunei (black & yellow) and Cambodia (blue) players compete during their Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy match last night at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium. BT/ Md Asdeny Yakub
10-man Brunei opened their title defence on the wrong note after falling 1-0 to Cambodia in Group B of the 5th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy last night.
Chan Vathanaka's goal in the 15th minute separated the two sides at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas. The hosts got off to a nervy start but had a bright spot with Adi Said in the lineup as the DPMM FC forward was a constant menace up front. Brunei were playing without much flow and were not making the necessary runs on attack.
They got their first shot on target after Md Hendra Azam Md Idris picked out Mohd Asnawi Syazni Hj Aziz in the box in the 14th minute but the latter fired straight at Cambodia goalkeeper Um Vichet. A goalkeeping error the next minute proved costly. Chan fired a long range attempt from outside the box.
Brunei keeper Abdul Hafiz Abdul Rahim tried to grab the ball instead of just tipping it over the crossbar resulting in it fumbling into the net, gifting Cambodia the lead. Adi tried to get one back for Brunei after he got the better of his defender and unleashed a powerful shot but Um Vichet did well to deny him in the 24th minute. The defending champions should have equalised just before the halftime whistle but Md Zulkhairy could only watch his thunderbolt down the middle crash off the crossbar, to the crowd's dismay.
Cambodia were dangerous on the counterattack but couldn't muster another goal. Mohd Asnawi Syazni managed to squeeze a shot in between two Cambodian defenders in the 55th minute but could only watch it go wide. Problems arose for Brunei after they made their second substitution with Md Aminuddin Zakwan Md Tahir entering the game in the 63rd minute, just as goalkeeper Abdul Hafiz went down with an injury.
The latter was stretchered off, leaving Brunei with no choice but to insert their second goalkeeper, Azman Ilham Hj Md Noor. However, teams are only allowed three overaged players on the field at any given moment. At the time, Brunei had already used up their substitutions and overage trio Adi, Md Hendra Azam and Reduan Hj Petara were all active on the pitch.
They were left with no choice but to play with 10 men by sacrificing Md Hendra Azam for the goalie when the match resumed seven minutes later. Azman Ilham leaped into action in the 75th minute, coming up with an acrobatic save to deny a close range header by Nub Tola. Cambodia captain Kouch Sokumpheak headed the rebound back to goal but was inches off the top right corner.
Brunei had their best chance of the second half in the 78th minute, courtesy of an error by the Cambodia backline. A Cambodia defender tried to head the ball back to Um Vichet but Adi got to it first. Um Vichet rushed out to block the striker but Adi stuck to it and fired the rebound on goal only to see it bounce off the left post.
Brunei were moving the ball better despite playing with a man down and were desperate for an equaliser. Chan almost notched a brace late after directing his header at goal in injury time but Azman Ilham came up with another save. Mohd Asnawi Syazni had the last chance for Brunei but could only watch his effort from inside the box saved by the keeper just before the final whistle after eight minutes of added time.