On a night when none of the big-name foreign strikers looked like scoring, it was up to young upstart Azwan Ali to settle the score at Hougang Stadium and propel Brunei DPMM FC to the top of the S.League standings.
But it was the clean sheet - their fifth in eight games so far - that pleased DPMM coach Steve Kean most. "It's not just about the back four and goalkeeper," said the 46-year-old Scotsman, whose team have conceded just four goals so far in this season's Great Eastern Yeo's S.League.
"Defence starts from the front and this is the mindset of the whole team.
"And yes, given that we always create many chances in every match, clean sheets will be important for our title aspirations.
"If we are to win the league, then draws are not good enough. So when we score just one goal like we did tonight, a clean sheet is just as crucial."
Both teams took turns to dominate the match, but, although lively, Brazilian joint-topscorers - Hougang's Geison Moura and DPMM's Rodrigo Tosi, who have seven goals each - looked to have left their scoring boots at home.
Hougang defender Firman Hanif saw his 31st-minute effort headed off the line, while DPMM forward Roy O'Donovan struck the post in the 54th minute.
It was left to 21-year-old Azwan to head substitute Najib Tarif's cross beyond Hougang goalkeeper Nazri Sabri for DPMM to collect the three points.
The promising winger was then replaced by Helmi Zambin four minutes later after a knee injury.
Signed from Brunei Super League champions Indera FC, Azwan is considered one of the country's most promising footballers, scoring a staggering 17 goals in eight games as a midfielder in the domestic league.
He also had a decent outing at the SEA Games in a mediocre Brunei Under-23 side, and now has three S.League goals to his name.
Kean said: "Azwan has been fantastic, and so have the rest of the local lads.
"They've taken on board everything I've tried to impart to them.
"If we want to win the league, it won't be just about the imports. The local players like Azwan will play a key role."
In last night's other match, Warriors FC trounced Albirex 4-0 with Argentine playmaker Nicolas Velez scoring all four goals.
This article was published on April 17 in The New Paper.
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