Azwan Plays Through The Pain

Sports 4 minutes, 10 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

MIDFIELDER Azwan Ali Rahman had to fight through the pain when he scored a brace during Brunei’s convincing 4-0 win over Timor Leste in their AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Solidarity Cup 2016 game in Kuching on Wednesday night.

Azwan picked up an ankle injury during DPMM FC’s 1-1 draw with Young Lions (Singapore national Under-21 team) in their Singapore League (S-League) game on June 19 and has been trying to recover since then — even skipping last month’s AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup 2016 qualifiers in Cambodia.

After a goalless first half on Wednesday, the 24-year-old came on just before the hour mark in the Group A game and made an immediate impact moments later by netting a brace in the span of six minutes to help the Wasps to their largest ever win.

Brothers Shahrazen and Adi Said completed the rout with a penalty and a free-kick at the Sarawak Stadium.

National football team coach Kwon Oh-son initially told The Brunei Times that the 2015 S-League Young Player of the Year was only going to play from the second game onwards, but Kwon’s decision to play Azwan in the opener has proven to be the right one as Brunei are now almost through to the semi-finals of the Nov 2-15 tournament.

“I was talking with coach Kwon before the game and I said I couldn’t play the full 90 minutes... So we made the decision for me to only play in the second half,” said Azwan in an interview with The Brunei Times after the game.

“I’m very happy to get back with the national team, and even though I’m still nursing an injury, winning the match was important.

“I just felt that I could score and I wanted to score this game. It worked, but now we just want to focus on the next game,” added the DPMM FC midfielder who found the back of the net eight times in the recently concluded Singapore League.

Despite his heroics, Azwan said that it was the team’s overall effort that got them the victory.

“I’m very happy with the result. We played very well for both halves, from the goalkeeper (Wardun Yussof) to the attackers,” said Azwan.

“I just took my chances… Credits should also go to Adi and Shahrazen for the good assists,” he added.

Kwon admitted it was a risk to play Azwan and praised his charges for the good showing, especially having to play in the waterlogged pitch caused by a downpour before kick-off.

“Azwan was not fully fit so we were a little scared, but we tried to find the best solution to play him,” Kwon told the AFC website.

“He scored two goals but, most of all, it was a fantastic team performance.

“At half time we tried to boost our performance and emphasised to the players that they could win the game. Then by scoring two goals they became confident.

“The players adapted very well to the conditions and I think this great victory can lead to others. This was about the players’ performance and they did a fantastic job out there.

“Of course it was difficult to play in those conditions but in football you have to expect the unexpected — you cannot play on nice green grass every time,” continued the 57-year-old.

On the other hand, Timor Leste coach Fabio da Silva felt that they only had themselves to blame for the defeat.

“In this kind of game, it was difficult to play with the ball as there was so much water on the pitch. But the players made mistakes that shouldn’t have happened,” said da Silva.

“After we conceded we tried to fight, but they lost their concentration and then we got a red card - so it was difficult for us.

“I told my players they must concentrate all the time because Brunei did not create their goals, they happened because of our mistakes,” he added.

“If we scored first then the game could have been different.

“But in this game the teams could only play long balls and wait for the mistakes to happen, and it was us who made too many mistakes,” concluded da Silva.

Timor Leste will have to beat Nepal on Saturday to stay alive in the competition. Anything other than that would mean auto qualification into the semi-finals for the sultanate.

Held for the first time, the AFC Solidarity Cup brings together aspiring AFC member associations to give teams the opportunity to play competitive international matches when they are not participating in FIFA or AFC national team competitions, stated the AFC website.

“The AFC Solidarity Cup is an exciting initiative to develop national team football in Asia,” AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said on the AFC website.

“The AFC is excited about this new tournament as we look to deliver the objective of our vision and mission, which is to make Asian teams stronger on the global stage.”

The Brunei Times