| Fadhil Yunus |
DPMM FC came so close yet so far after losing their final game of the S League season 2-1 against Tampines Rovers FC and coupled with Warriors FC’s 1-0 victory over Albirex Niigata (S), the league title was wrestled from their reach at the final hurdle at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore last night.
They missed a hat-trick of chances in the closing minutes of the first half and remaining goalless at half-time would turn out to be their last moments in a title-winning position in what had been an enthralling season.
The Brunei-based side underlined their intent in going all-out as Shahrazen Said, Adi Said and Rodrigo Tosi were all included in the starting line-up.
Azwan Salleh produced one of his signature deliveries into the box and was expertly cushioned on the chest by Rodrigo Tosi but the target man could not get any conviction for the all-important finish.
DPMM FC would want to set the precedence early but Hendra Azam’s free- kick was too long for Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman.
Shahrazen had a good chance after controlling Tosi’s cross but could not get his technique right.
Tampines got into the game as Jozef Kaplan tried to locate defender Jufri Taha, which bounced off the box. Kaplan got a second bite of the cherry but DPMM FC’s defender Boris Raspudic threw his body for a vital block before gesturing to Azwan Salleh to mark his man tighter.
Tampines had their first real chance as striker Miljan Mrdakovic dribbled past Joe Gamble before placing his shot for accuracy though no such problems for Azman Ilham Noor.
The escalating pressure was almost lifted but Tosi missed a glancing header after outmuscling a defender.
However, with what could be the defining moment of the game for DPMM FC, Shahrazen Said spurned a gilt-edged opportunity with the goal at his mercy. Awangku Fakharazzi guided the ball into the middle and from two yards Shahrazen elected to use his right foot and completely missed his touch with defenders nowhere in sight.
Tosi sent a glancing header wide albeit a far difficult chance as DPMM FC headed to the break and not without its concerns and period of deeper anxieties.
Jacob Butler produced a stinging drive but was withstood by brave DPMM FC’s defending.
Meanwhile over at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Warriors and Albirex were equally poised at the break with the score goalless which more importantly meant DPMM FC still had a slight edge. However, that what all it was as a goal for Warriors FC would mean heightened concerns if they were to address their poor finishing.
In the early moments of the second half, Shahrazen did not look like a confident figure after blasting his shot into the stands again following a precise Tosi’s cushion header.
Singapore legend Aleksandar Duric who will be hanging up his boots at the final whistle nearly made an instant impression after finding Kaplan with a cross though the danger was wiped out for a corner.
News filtered in the commentary box that Warriors FC had taken the lead through Hafiz Rahim in the 48th minute and as it stood the league title was staying put in Singapore.
Adi Said had a good chance to nod the ball home with Pasfield easily beaten but did not exert enough conviction and landed harmlessly wide.
Those chances that came and went would come to haunt the visitors as a night full of promise was slowly beginning to unfold into a disaster. Kaplan was at it again causing mayhem in the box and exemplified how to finish by drilling the ball low past Azman.
Mrdakovic were unable to provide an opening with his back off the Bruneian defence and decided to slide in a pass to the onrushing Duric but the naturalised Singaporean slipped under tight man-marking.
Mrdakovic came agonisingly close and it would have been a double whammy had Azman not kept the ball out.
Kaplan nearly scored his second after taking a yard out of a defender but his shot arrowed wide.
Duric intelligently created space and unleashed a decent but saveable effort, and with the defence standing motionless, Azman inadvertently dropped a clanger enabling Mrdakovic to round him and tap in for a simple finish.
Tosi, the man who always come up with the goods and prove for the umpteenth time that he was solely responsible for carrying DPMM FC into the brink of history, escaped the attentions of a defender and slotted home a fine finish to give the visitors’ hope.
Tampines came to the rescue with a vital block after a cushioned header had been laid out for Tosi to get back into level terms.
The referee signalled the end of the match and with it gone the chance of winning the league title as DPMM FC ended the 2014 S League as first runners- up.