| Fadhil Yunus |
DPMM FC first-choice goalkeeper Wardun Yussof rescued his side from conceding a probable last-gasp winner during a 3-3 draw with Warriors FC in the AIA Singapore Premier League match at the Jurong East Stadium in Singapore yesterday.
The league leaders saw a two-goal advantage slip but a point could have easily been none had it not been for the seasoned veteran’s intervention to deny Warriors forward Khairul Nizam deep into stoppage time in the second half.
The title race got closer with Gegar Gegar men now only one point ahead of second-placed Albirex Niigata (S), who won 2-1 against Young Lions in a match played also yesterday.
Brunei Darussalam international Adi Said made his debut in his second spell for the club since his departure at the end of last season after coming on as a substitute for Andrei Varankou.
The Brunei-based outfit were reduced to 10 men after midfielder Nurikhwan Othman was given a straight red card in the 64th minute.
Early on in the match, the visitors took out a leaf straight out a training ground playbook with their set-piece but Varankou could not get his shot on target.
Warriors forward Jonathan Behe swung in an inch-perfect cross and recipient Gabriel Quak produced a fantastic header in the 12th minute for his seventh goal of the season.
The outlook of the match for the league leaders seemed to be heading for the worse when a misjudgement from DPMM FC defender Yura Indera Putera in blocking the ball from Jonathan Behe cost his side a penalty.
However, Jonathan Behe, whose run-up in the penalty admittedly did not show any conviction, hit a feeble spot kick as the score remained 1-0 to the hosts.
The Brunei-based outfit drew level in the 29th minute after Abdul Azizi Ali Rahman produced a sublime header having met a quality cross from fullback Najib Tarif.
DPMM FC went into the lead after Azwan Ali Rahman curled a rasping effort after being played through by Hendra Azam with both players combining to absolute perfection.
Varankou showed one of his assets with his hold-up play as he laid the ball for Ricciuto who struck into the near post for his eighth goal of the season. The Australian midfielder is now level in joint second alongside Behe and Hougang attacker Faris Ramli in the scoring charts.
The visitors suffered a setback after goal-scorer Abdul Azizi was stretchered off the field just past the hour mark.
There was more bad news for DPMM FC who conceded a second penalty of the game after Nurikhwan Othman was adjudged to have brought down Khairul Nizam.
The midfielder was shown the red card in what appeared to be another big decision for the referee.
Wardun was given a different proposition this time with Gabriel taking over penalty duties from the Frenchman.
The goal-scorer, who was in the scoresheet the last time these two sides met, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to halve the deficit and breathe life into his team’s hopes. The conversion propelled the two-goal hero into joint second in the scoring charts.
Nurikhwan’s dismissal prompted changes as Najib Tarif was employed in a left centre-back role previously occupied by the vacated defender.
Razimie Ramlli had Varankou in support but his pass was intercepted only as far as Azwan Ali whose shot was crucially blocked by Delwinder Singh.
Gabriel played a peach off a pass from the centre circle into Khairul Nizam who got beyond two defenders but the substitute was unfortunate to see his fierce effort brush against the base of the post.
The rebound fell for Sahil Suhaimi who still had work to do to keep his shot down and that he did, slamming the ball into the net to send the crowd wild.
Stunned by the equaliser and in the hopes of regaining the lead, Varankou tested Shahul with a fierce volley but the goalkeeper got both hands on the ball.
Gabriel nearly completed his hat-trick and subsequently the winner after Delwinder’s ball evaded the visiting defence but it was Wardun who got the better of the duo with a great save.
Adi Said, who last played for Malaysia Premier League side UiTM, made a cameo appearance for the final 10 minutes of the game after replacing Varankou.
The hosts broke in a counter and Tajeli Salamat was in space following another quality pass from Gabriel. The defender sent the ball into the middle for Behe who could not reach his pass.
Wardun pulled a top class save deep into injury time as he kept out a point blank header from Khairul Nizam after the forward latched onto a Tajeli Salamat’s pinpoint delivery.
Gabriel was found onside as the visiting defence was caught asleep but Wardun made another significant contribution to deny the Warriors goal-scorer.
Warriors had one last chance right at the death to snatch the winner when Behe flicked his header into Ignatius Ang but the substitute fluffed his lines, spelling an end to the drama-filled match.