Brunei DPMM FC took a giant step towards the RHB Singapore Cup final after a first-leg 2-0 semi-final win over Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Volodymyr Pryiomov scored a debatable penalty to open the scoring while Azwan Ali hit home a wicked volley to seal victory for DPMM.
Balestier will feel hard done by the result, given how they dictated play for arguably most of the game until the spot-kick was awarded in the 67th minute.
The Tigers were remarkably composed in the opening stages of the game but they failed to capitalise on it, missing a few gilt-edged chances on several occasions.
Keegan Linderboom failed to get the best of Haimie Nyaring after being played through by Hazzuwan Halim in the 11th minute, while the latter followed up with a tame effort just moments later.
Another chance went begging by in the 26th minute after Huzaifah drove down the flank and his cut-back found Hazzuwan in the box, but Haimie stood firm with a good save.
Linderboom will then wonder how he failed to score in the 33rd minute. Haimie fluffed his clearance towards Huzaifah and the midfielder cleverly played Linderboom through, only to see the striker hit the right post
The New Zealander continued to endure a torrid night, missing twice from close range after meeting superb deliveries by Huzaifah in the 35th and 53rd minute respectively.
The turning point of the game would arrive in the 67th minute, when Nurullah Hussein was adjudged to have used his hands while trying to clear the ball with his chest in the box. Pryiomov duly converted the resulting spot-kick and the momentum seemingly swung in DPMM’s favour.
If the first goal came in controversial manner, there was nothing Balestier could complain about the second.
Balestier lost possession and Shah Razen Said laid the ball on for Azwan Ali, who slammed home an unstoppable stunner into the top left corner.
There were further chances for Pryiomov to extend his side’s lead but he failed to beat Zaiful Nizam time and again.
Balestier will now have a mountain to climb when both teams face off again on 3 October at Toa Payoh Stadium.
Brunei DPMM FC Team Manager Hj Ali Momin: “Balestier are a good team, only their finishing were poor. If they scored a goal in the first half, maybe it would have been a different situation.
“For the first half we were not doing well, I don’t know what happened to our players. Second half we started to attack more after putting one more striker in the middle and that helped us to score.
“Balestier were playing well, they got to the second ball faster than us, our players seemed to be second for everything and that’s how Balestier attacked us. But luckily their finishing was not on point and it was good for us.
“For us, 2-0 is enough for the second leg. It’s not much but it’s good to have a two-goal lead in the pocket, so if we are not doing well or draw it’s enough for us.”
Balestier Khalsa FC Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “Very disappointed with the score tonight, the boys worked hard, we made chances and we should be ahead very clearly but we made mistakes and this happens in football.
“We wanted to attack, we wanted to win the game — we did not come here to wait for the second game and the boys did a great job. Only one mistake and our opponents punished us.
“We should have been ahead very clearly, we had many clear chances to go ahead. DPMM were second best for almost everything.
“Of course, when you are playing well and then you concede some soft penalty, everything changes.
“We never say die, we are going to Toa Payoh Stadium, we are going to score one goal and then step by step we will get there, but we need to keep a clean sheet.
“I am very confident the chances we missed, we will score them next Wednesday.”
Brunei DPMM FC: Haimie Nyaring (GK), Brian McLean, Azwan Saleh, Azwan Ali (Abdul Azizi Rahman 81’), Volodymyr Priomov, Suhaimi Sulau, Helmi Zembin, Nurikhwan Othman, Adi Said (Naijb Tarif 90’), Abdul Aziz Tamit, Shah Razen Said (C)
Balestier Khalsa FC: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman, Khalili Khalif, Nurullah Hussein, Hazzuwan Halim, Huzaifah Aziz, Fariz Faizal (Zakir Samsudin 62’) (Afiq Salman Tan 87’), Ahmad Syahir, Keegan Linderboom, Verbac Sanjin (Akbar Shah Zainudeen 81’)