The Brunei Darussalam national football team are one foot away from reaching the main draw of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 after sweeping aside Timor Leste 6-2 in the first leg qualification round at the Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex yesterday.
The four-goal advantage puts Brunei in the best position to make it to the group stage for the first time since their sole participation in the inaugural edition in 1996.
Team captain Hendra Azam Idris saw his shot whistle past the Timor Leste goalkeeper Junildo Manuel De Castro Pereira and the goalmouth after a teammate had intercepted an opponent off the ball.
The Wasps took the lead in the 17th minute as Abdul Azizi Ali Rahman produced a deft finish past the goalkeeper after a teammate had made a defence-splitting pass.
The goal sparked celebrations culminating in the player having a warm embrace with the national coach Mario Rivera Campesino.
However, the hosts were sent a warning as Juvito Moniz saw his header travel just wide following a cross from a teammate.
Abdul Azizi was a constant threat upfront and his pace forced the visitors to commit multiple fouls.
He came close to double the national team and his tally after his header went wide following a corner from Hakeme Yazid bin Said.
The hosts doubled their lead as Abdul Azizi steered the ball into the net after Nurikhwan Othman had earlier won the ball from a corner.
But Timor Leste were handed a lifeline on the stroke of half time after team captain Mouzinho Barreto de Lima reduced arrears.
Brunei substitute Razimie Ramlli restored Brunei’s two-goal advantage in the hour’s mark but the Timor Leste narrowed their lead once again through midfielder Jhon Oliveira.
Brunei midfielder Azwan Muhamad Salleh, one of the country’s more experienced players, helped extend their lead before Wafi Aminuddin bagged his first international goal for the senior team a minute from time.
It was pure ecstasy for the Bruneian footballing community as substitute Razimie struck at the death, putting the country in the best possible shape ahead of the second leg.
The two sides will meet again for the second leg on November 8, with the winner booking a place in the group stage alongside powerhouses Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.