Henrique Wilson scored a brace for Timor Leste, who have one foot at the finals of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup after they coasted to a 3-1 victory over Brunei at the regional showcase qualifiers on Saturday.
The win at Cheras Stadium, however, is not the end of Brunei who could force their way back into contention when they host the Timorese at Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium on September 8.
FOX Sports Asia highlights the main talking points from the first-leg qualifiers.
Timor-Leste restores some pride with this win
This East Timor side have only qualified for the AFF Suzuki Cup once in their history. Even when they did so in 2004, they were the whipping boys of the tournament and crashed out of the group stage with four defeats and 18 goals conceded. The Timor Leste national team also faced the embarrassment of a ban from competing at the 2023 Asian Cup, after the national team fielded 12 ineligible players at the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers. So while they will not be part of the Asian showcase in South Korea, this current crop of players have gone a small way to restore that damaged reputation. Timor Leste were deserved winners with a dominant display against the oil-rich nation in this first-leg.
Brunei’s AFF Cup hopes are still alive
If Brunei’s second half performance is anything to go by, they have shown their potential to stage a comeback in front of their home fans next week. After being completely outplayed in the first 45- minutes, Brunei came out a revitalized side and got the away goal through Azwan Ali Rahman. They had more possession of ball, and did well to fashion openings from the channels. Brunei head coach Kwon Oh-son may want to include Azwan in the starting line-up to partner Adi Said in the return-leg. As much as Brunei had the ball in the second half, they did not do much to trouble the disciplined Timor Leste defence. They need to create more clear-cut goalscoring chances.
Brunei fans should be lauded for their support
Given that this qualifiers was taking place in a neutral venue, not many would have expected much of an attendance at Cheras Stadium. But, around 300 Brunei fans showed up to spur their team to victory. Even after the defeat, the small Brunei fans made their voices heard and cheered their team off the pitch. They even patiently waited outside the stadium to get a glimpse of the players who were boarding the team bus. If this support is magnified at Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in the return leg, then Brunei will have a decent chance of overturning this scoreline. Never underestimate the 12th man in the team.
Photo Credit: FAM