Wasps edge open contest at Woodlands
Photography by Aundry Gan
Title contenders DPMM FC of Brunei found themselves in the thick of an excellent contest on Sunday evening, as they came from behind to defeat bottom side Woodlands Wellington 2-1 and take all three points away from Woodlands Stadium.
The result was very much in the balance right up to the final whistle, but ultimately a rare goal from Wasps captain Rosmin Kamis proved enough to swing the encounter, although the opening minutes gave suggestions that things would be a lot more straightforward.
Woodlands took a while to settle into the game, having faced a torrid opening six minutes, where they conceded a penalty.
Early free kicks and corners won by DPMM already had the Rams backpedalling from the start, and when Brazilian Patrick da Silva, advanced into the penalty area on the left in menacing fashion, Zulkarnain Malik clattered into him in a manner that showed his inexperience.
Referee Muhd Taqi was well placed to quickly award the penalty, but Ivan Jerkovic, tasked to dispatch the ball, showed less focus than usual as he strode forward and stroked the ball towards the left-hand upright.
That allowed Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, who had guessed correctly, to dive to his right and push the weak shot around the post.
That early moment unnerved DPMM coach Vjeran Simunic, who later explained that his players’ morale was already low after the bulk of them had returned empty-handed from their AFF Suzuki Cup qualification series.
“They were down, and I knew after that miss we would struggle,” he told sleague.com.
“But after we spoke at half-time they began to believe in themselves again, and we were able to come back. But I thought Woodlands played very well and we had to work very hard.”
DPMM had an appeal for a second penalty three minutes after getting the first one, when Ghanaian forward Basiru Osman came down as the Bruneians side broke quickly in a surprise attack.
That appeal was turned down, though, and soon the hosts began to mount their own offensive, with Guntur Djafril and Moon Soon Ho combining well up front.
With ten minutes on the clock, Moon dragged his shot just wide of the left-hand upright, after his attacking partner had laid on the telling pass.
That was the first sign that the Rams would threaten a Wasps defence that had to be re-jigged after Tales dos Santos had returned to Brazil for a knee operation, and the speed of Moon and Guntur gave their opponents much to think about.
They managed to grab the lead on 26 minutes, and it was no more than they deserved, as they had gone close a few times prior to that strike.
A speedy run on the right by Moon followed by a fine cross led to Guntur grabbing his first goal this season, in the process opening the scoring in what was becoming a very open contest.
A neat goal it was too, as the former Geylang United trainee, who had done well to run in tandem with his No.10, headed powerfully past DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof and then crashed into the back of the net himself at breakneck speed.
Luckily neither the ball nor the man caused any real damage, though Woodlands came close to adding to their opener on at least two good occasions.
Moon angled his shot narrowly wide on 37 minutes off a decent pass by Oswind Suriya Rosaryo, before Guntur slashed at a chance set up by Moon, sending the ball over the bar.
For a time that seemed long enough for the long-suffering Rams fans, it looked as if the team they supported might be able to reach the break at least one, maybe even two goals to the good.
But it was not to be.
DPMM won three corners in succession, and then had two free kicks on the right in the last five minutes of the first half.
It was the latter free kick on 43 minutes that allowed the men from Brunei to draw level.
Leftback Sairol Sahari lifted the ball into the heart of the goalmouth, and with the slightest of headed touches Shahrazen Said managed to get enough on the ball to send it rattling into the underside of the bar and then well over the line.
It was the type of morale boost Simunic knew his charges needed, yet by then the contest had become so open no one would have been surprised seeing either side score at any point.
DPMM did their part to improve their chances on that front, stepping up another gear after their half-time team talk and doing most of the attacking in the second period.
But Woodlands were not to be cowed into submission, as Goh Swee Swee emerged off the bench on 62 minutes and almost got his side back within a couple of minutes of his arrival.
Facing Wardun twelve yards out, however, Goh could only steer the ball wide, much to his own chagrin.
The Bruneians responded swiftly, going close from a free kick as captain Rosman Kamis sent in a deceptive shot that Ahmadulhaq was forced to tip over the bar.
On 69 minutes, Rosmin was involved again when he beat Farizal Basri to a Woodlands clearance that landed about 30 yards out to the side.
Making himself enough room to fashion a cross, the 31-year-old then sent it in towards the danger area, and as it went across the face of goal Shahrazen tried to get his head to the ball.
He did not connect, but the ball, which was travelling at great speed, flew straight past Ahmadulhaq into the roof of the net to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
That proved enough to see things through for DPMM, with only one scare coming deep into stoppage time off the foot of an ever-dangerous Goh.
His shot from the left looked at first as if it had gone into the net, but it soon emerged that the ball had found the side-netting instead, giving Simunic much relief as his side’s title hopes remain very much alive.
“I do not want to pile pressure on my players, they know they have to do their best if they want to challenge for the title still,” said the 58-year-old.
“We can win the title if things go our way, but I’m not looking at the top spot yet. We can make third spot, maybe, which would be good for us.”
Woodlands assistant coach Clement Teo was meanwhile happy with his side’s overall effort, although that was not enough to give them a win to celebrate their final match on home turf for the season.
“Only poor concentration let us down, really,” he stressed.
“I feel we deserved something from the game, and if some of the decisions by the officials had gone the other way, it might have made a difference as well.
“There was three minutes of stoppage time signalled, for instance, but even when there was time wasting, no more time was added on. Even with ten men, I thought we had a chance of scoring again right up until the final whistle.”
The reduction to ten men came late on when Zulkarnain, who was booked for the foul that led to the penalty miss by Jerkovic, was shown a second yellow card seven minutes from time as the clock wound down.
While Teo had no obvious complaints regarding Zulkarnain’s second booking, he was nonplussed by the calls in general.
“Farizal Basri copped an elbow and the officials did nothing,” he mentioned, stressing that he rarely criticised decisions in games.
“The referee cautioned our player very early, but he never cautioned any of their players until nearly the end of the match.
“But I could not fault our players tonight, they all did really well.”
There was one piece of good news for the hosts as Hussein Akil, who suffered a slight hamstring tear and sat out of this match, said that he expects to have some role to play in his team’s final two games against Home United and Tanjong Pagar United.
“I hope to be back by Thursday,” he said.
“But if I can’t, then at least I’ll be in time for the last game of the season.”