Bittersweet year for DPMM FC

Bittersweet year for DPMM FC

Rewind back to September.

Forward Rodrigo Tosi was confident that DPMM FC could win the Singapore League (S-League).

With only five games remaining in the season, DPMM FC were on 46 points and held a five-point lead over second-placed Warriors FC.

The advantage was with the Brunei side as they were to play the first three matches of the third and final round at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

"I think to be honest… for us, it is perfect. If we can get great results and win (the three games) then we are going be champions," said Tosi in a previous interview with The Brunei Times.

"All will be very difficult matches though as we already have a few losses and draws as well.

"But we have a really good chance to win the league and we are halfway there now.

"I think we are really confident. Everyone is practising hard and wants to play.

"Everyone knows we have a good chance as this is the first time for the club to make history by winning all three trophies," added the Brazilian.

At that point, DPMM FC had already won the Singapore League Cup after defeating Tanjong Pagar United FC 2-0 in the final at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore on July 25.

They had also progressed the furthest in the Singapore Cup in the club's history by making it into the semi-finals of the competition.

Everything seemed rosy and they were on track for a unprecedented treble - but things never panned out the way as expected for the Brunei side.

They blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the second leg of the Singapore Cup semi-finals against Home United on September 26 - going out 4-3 on aggregate.

The Brunei side couldn't make use of their advantage in the S-League too as they lost the first two and drew in the third to gain only one point from their three home games.

Warriors eventually displaced them at the top and they only got back to the summit - only on superior goal difference - after a 1-0 victory over Albirex Niigata (S) FC on October 28.

A 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tampines Rovers FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore three days later combined with a Warriors FC victory saw the title slip away.

What were the turning points that resulted in a change of fortune for the club?

DEFENCE

With the arrival of former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean in November 2013, DPMM FC got off to a flying start in the Singapore League (S-League).

They completed the first round of the S-League season with nine wins, a draw and a loss - with 28 points - to open up a seven-point advantage at the top of the 12-team table over the duo of eventual champions Warriors FC and Tampines Rovers FC.

The backline was impressive producing seven clean sheets and conceding only five goals during that period. They didn't lack in firepower upfront either, finding the back of the net 30 times.

They went through a bump at the start of the second round but it was after winning the Singapore League Cup that things really took a turn.

DPMM FC failed to keep a single clean sheet after that until the meeting against Albirex in the third round of the S-League.

Sairol Hj Sahari and Shahrul Rizal Hj Abdul Rahman were regulars in the starting lineup under former head coach Vjeran Simunic, but neither played much of a role after he left.

The latter did get a start though, but made a crucial mistake resulting in a 1-1 draw against Balestier Khalsa FC on October 25.

FATIGUE

Kean was given the opportunity to lead the national team at the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Laos from October 12-20.

The squad was made of the local players on DPMM FC with the addition of three players from the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) squad.

Brunei failed to win any of their four matches, but the extra matches over the short span of time proved difficult for recovery.

DPMM FC then completed their S-League campaign with three matches in the span of 11 days after returning from Laos.

A surprising move saw second choice goalkeeper Azman Ilham Hj Md Noor inserted into the starting lineup for the three games, continuing from the last three at the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers.

Overall, it was bittersweet for DPMM FC despite all the setbacks towards the end as they completed their best season to date.

They also notched their largest win with a 7-0 trouncing of Global FC of the Philippines in their Singapore Cup opener on May 31.

It will be interesting to see how DPMM FC will fare in the new season.

It will be a busy offseason for the team having only kept two of their imports - Bosnian defender Boris Raspudic and Irish midfielder.

Topscorer Tosi, who found the back of the net 23 times in the S-League, Irish forward Roy O'Donovan and Croatian midfielder Roberto Alviz have all been surprisingly released.

What will 2015 bring for Brunei's only professional team?

We will just have to wait and see.

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