Timor Leste stun Singapore to make to first HBT final

|     James Kon     |

TIMOR Leste advanced to the final of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship after fighting back from a goal down in the first half to stun Singapore 2-1 on Wednesday night at the Balapan Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex.

The kickoff was delayed for more than an hour due to the heavy downpour, but that did not dampen the semi-final clash as both teams went straight to top gear.

Timor Leste nearly took the lead in the eighth minute via Henrique Wilson Da Cruz but his effort outside 16 yards was blocked.

Singapore’s goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad was forced to an impressive save after 18 minutes from an on-target strike by Silvero Da Resureicao who collected a low pass from Rufino Gama at the left wing corner.

Ikhsan Fandi Ahmad almost scored the opening goal of the game on the half-hour mark, but his shot was wide.

Minutes after, Ikhsan took his chance when he took the ball from the middle of the penalty box and hit it past Timor Leste goalkeeper Fagio Augusto Da Silva into the left side to take the lead for Singapore.

After the break, Timor Leste were dominant and scored two goals within a span of four minutes to shock Singapore.

The equaliser came on 76th minutes when Rufino Walter Gama dribbled his way through Singapore’s defence, and then hit a powerful strike beating Zharfan Rohaizad.

Two minutes later, Henrique Wilson Da Cruz was quick to pounce on the loose ball after a strike from midfield hit the post straight into Henrique’s path to easily score, taking the lead into Timor Leste’s hands.

Goalkeeper Fagio Augusto Da Silva Pereira managed to keep his team’s lead in place with a number of stunning saves in the closing minutes of the match.

Timor Leste head coach Eduardo Pereira hailed his players’ resilience and spirit.

“I felt really proud of the team. They came back from behind to win the game.”

Pereira praised his players for staying focus and executing his instructions he had given during the break.

Meanwhile, Singapore head coach Fandi Ahmad congratulated Timor Leste for the win as well as his players for their efforts.

“We came back strong and created a lot of chances in the last five minutes but were all saved by the keeper. I am happy with the boys for putting in their efforts in the second half. Good experience and exposure for the players especially in international matches. Hopefully we can do better in future games.”

Asked on the first goal by Timor Leste, Fandi Ahmad said, “We have numbers in defence and nobody tackled him. We lost a bit of focus. Two minutes later, they scored a second goal… I think we lost concentration during pressure.”

He hoped that his players will learn from their mistakes and grow together to improve.

Asked on the strong support for Singapore, the former Singapore international said, “I would like to thank the Bruneian and Singaporean supporters. The boys and myself are happy. Hopefully we do better in our next tournament.”

Summing up the tournament, he said, “It’s a fantastic tournament. This is a high level competition where teams (can) improve a lot. We are happy for the invitation from the organiser.”