| Fadhil Yunus |
NAJIP I-Team reached the final of the Brunei DST FA Cup for the second time in three years after edging Tabuan Under-17 2-1 in a bad-tempered semi-final clash at the Track and Field Sports Complex yesterday.
The major highlight of a relatively normal cup tie was Tabuan Under-17 head coach Ali Mustafa being sent to the stands and the subsequent dismissal of one of his players Muhd Khairul Alimin Md Ali.
Both sides were involved in a seemingly common individual battle on the touch-line when an incident with the referee at the centre of the storm descended into chaos.
The incident sparked displeasure among a section of the supporters and many directed their frustrations to the match official who had to be escorted into the dressing room following the final whistle.
Muhd Hanif Aiman Haji Adanan had given the junior Tabuan the lead in the 18th minute but Najip drew level after Muhd Faiz Farhan Kamat equalised in the 30th minute.
Mohd Esmendy Brahim scored the winner for Najip three minutes after the hour mark after fending off a challenge by his marker and drilling home a fine finish past Tabuan shot-stopper Awangku Mohd Amirul Hakim Pengiran Haji Zulkarnain.
The young Tabuan side were awarded an indirect free-kick in the latter stages as they pushed for a goal but the ball rolled harmlessly for a goal-kick.
Najip’s head coach Haji Zulkifli Haji Momin felt proud after reaching a second final in three years since the 2-0 defeat to MS ABDB in 2014.
Despite facing pressure from their opponents in the final few minutes, the head coach revealed that the semi-final encounter against Indera SC proved a tougher test whom they also beat by the same score-line a couple of years ago.
He added that they will step up their preparations ahead of next week’s final as they look to lift silverware this season.
The head coach concluded that they have no preferences who they would like to meet in the final.
“We don’t mind meeting either MS ABDB or Indera SC, who are playing tonight, in the final”, said Haji Zulkifli.
The defeat brought an end to Tabuan Under-17’s memorable run-in to the last four of the premier cup competition after stunning top flight side MS PDB in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, there was a late scare at the end of the game after a Najip player required treatment.
Najip I Team will meet the winner of the MS ABDB and Indera SC tie who played at a later kick-off at the Tutong Sports Complex.