Warriors FC fell to their second 2-1 defeat to Brunei DPMM for the season, with a brace from Volodymyr Pryiomov helping the visitors to turn the game around on Saturday evening at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
Warriors had taken the lead first through captain Kento Fukuda, but Warriors failed to keep the lead – the fourth time they have done so this season against the DPMM.
The defeat means that they are virtually out of the running for fourth spot in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) table – they trail DPMM by six points with just two games to go in the season, while DPMM also have a game in hand.
It could possibly be a psychological blow for the Warriors’ Singapore Cup hopes. They play DPMM again on Wednesday in the second leg of the quarter-final, with the aggregate tied at 2-2.
Warriors had the brighter start to the game, with Johnathan Behe forcing Haimie Nyaring into a save early on after beating his man easily on the edge of the box.
But DPMM came very close to breaking the deadlock in the 11th minute thanks to a moment of magic from Azwan Ali. The midfielder pounced on a loose ball near the halfway line and fired a first-time volley which crashed off the crossbar, with Warriors goalkeeper Mukundan Maran left flailing in the air.
A minute later, Najib Tarif sprung the offside trap, and his effort from the weaker left-foot was not enough to trouble Mukundan.
DPMM kept up their pressure and Mukundan was forced into a superb save with his leg, this time to prevent Azwan Saleh’s powerful effort from going in. From the resulting corner, Brian McLean nodded wide.
The young Warriors goalkeeper was once again called into action in the 22nd minute, after Adi Said was allowed to cut in and get a shot away.
Fadhil Noh then saw a volley go narrowly wide, before DPMM wasted a couple of opportunities to score once again in the 32nd minute.
First, Abdul Aziz Tamit messed up his shot despite being unmarked with an open goal waiting, after Azwan Ali had picked him out with a free-kick. The ball fell nicely for Adi and the forward caught it sweetly, only for Hafiz Sulaiman to block it right on the line.
DPMM were left to rue those misses, as Warriors found the net a couple of minutes later.
Khairul Nizam managed to get onto the end of Shamil Sharif’s floated free-kick, and the forward smartly nodded it to the far post for Fukuda to score with a simple tap in.
The lead lasted for just eight minutes though, as a defensive lapse gave DPMM an equaliser.
Nobody tracked Volodymyr Pryiomov’s run as Azwan Ali floated in a free-kick and the Ukranian flicked the ball into the net from point-blank range.
DPMM should have gone into the second half with the lead though. An outrageous attempt from Adi saw Mukudan needing a punch to prevent the ball from finding the top corner, and Shahrazen Said was quickest to the rebound.
But with all the time in the world and no blue shirts around him, Shahrazen elected to smash the ball way over the net.
Warriors started the second half the brighter side, with Ammirul Emmran hitting the post with a curling effort four minutes after the restart.
But DPMM slowly grew into ascendancy, with Warriors seemingly unable to contain them, especially on the break.
Azwan Ali saw an effort curled just over in the 65th minute, before Pryiomov put DPMM ahead in the 70th minute with a highly contentious effort.
A shot from Adi forced Mukundan with a decent save, but Azwan Saleh was first to the rebound and his square ball was prodded in by the DPMM striker from an offside position.
The Ukrainian had been standing right in front Fukuda, who was the Warriors last man, but both the linesman and the referee failed to spot that. The goal prompted protests from the Warriors players, but to no avail.
The home side were almost gifted a goal in the 82nd minute, when Haimie Nyaring allowed a Sahil Suhaimi shot to slip through his grasps and bounce just wide of the goal.
From the resulting corner, Emmeric Ong planted a header just wide, and DPMM were able to hold off Warriors for the remaining 10 minutes in the game.
DPMM head coach Rene Weber: “We are looking for a win in this game. They have a good team, and we face them against Wednesday. We are facing with challenges – trying to take third position, home didn’t win today so we have home. That’s why it was important for us to win today. It will be a different game on Wednesday – they have a good team. It will be game number five this season.
“We know all about them, they have some big names. But anyway, we must fight again on Wednesday. After draw, there will be extra time and it’s tough, so we must win. Three days after that, we have a game against Tampines, so it’s important to win on Wednesday.
“The main point is 90 minutes, different game, different referee, even if it is the same field. We played here before, the field is not so good. The main point is when you beat an opponent, you know how they play but they also know how we play, and a knockout match is a different challenge. We lost two players today to injury… I hope they can play in the next game.”
Warriors Head Coach Mirko Grabovac: “I am frustrated. We have a lot of chances. The second goal, everybody can see number 10 was on the line and he must have been offside. Again the concentration was missing in second half. Today we had some problems for players, Tajeli was injured.
“They must be better at defending set-pieces. The set-pieces from them are very dangerous. Most of their games, they scored from there. Every time we practice about it in training, but this still happens. We have to see how we can improve in two or three days.
“Sure, we will be changing something on Wednesday, but I can’t say it now. Nizam was fine, Shamil was okay today. Some of the players came from the national team, some had injury (so they didn’t play today). We are going to see, but for sure we will change something.
“We had chances to score again… sometimes the players who are coming into the game from the bench have to prepare better.”
Warriors: Mukundan Maran (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Kento Fukuda, Ammirul Emmran (Ho Wai Loon 67′), Shamil Sharif, Emmeric Ong, Jonathan Behe, Ignatius Ang (Suria Prakash 84′), Khairul Nizam (Sahil Suhaimi 55′), Hafiz Sulaiman, Fadhil Noh
Brunei DPMM: Haimie Nyaring (GK), Brian McLean, Awangku Fakharrazi (Helmi Zembin 62′), Azwan Saleh (C), Azwan Ali Rahman (Abdul Aziz Rahman 76′), Hendra Azam, Volodymyr Pryiomov, Najib Tarif, Suhaimi Sulau (Shahrazen Said 21′), Adi Said, Abdul Aziz Tamit