Football: Brunei DPMM coach hails team's 'big hearts' as they hold Albirex 0-0 to extend unbeaten run

Albirex Niigata’s Shuhei Sasahara (centre left) challenging Brunei DPMM’s Blake Ricciuto for the ball during their Singapore Premier League match at Jurong East Stadium on May 24, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore Premier League (SPL) leaders Brunei DPMM extended their unbeaten start to the season to 11 games after they held defending champions Albirex Niigata to a goal-less draw on Friday night (May 24).

With most of his players observing the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, DPMM coach Adrian Pennock was happy with the point at the White Swans' Jurong East Stadium home.

"It's a great point," said the former Stoke City assistant manager.

"To come here, fasting or not, is always difficult and we had to dig in. We didn't come here to draw but the (fatigue) caught up with us a bit. Our players showed they had big hearts."

The match pitted the two most in-form players against each other in midfield.

Albirex had skipper Kyoga Nakamura, the SPL's best young player last month, while DPMM boasted Australian midfielder Blake Ricciuto, who won the goal and player of the month awards.

But Ricciuto was unable to assert himself on the game because he had his hands full in midfield combating the pass-and-move style of the Japanese side.

As a result, DPMM's Belarusian striker Andrey Varankow - the SPL's leading scorer with 14 goals from 10 games - cut an isolated figure up front.

Nakamura, however, was able to show glimpses of his quality, and was involved in two of the game's brightest moments.

In the 29th minute, the 23-year-old shimmied past two players, before letting rip a fierce shot from outside the box which was tipped over the bar by DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof.

Then, just seconds into the second half, the former Japan Under-17 player intercepted a loose pass in midfield, bore down on goal, and then set up teammate Hiroyoshi Kamata with a golden opportunity.

But Kamata inexplicably slid the ball into the side netting after rounding Wardun.

Albirex stayed in third place on 18 points from 10 games, nine points behind DPMM, who have played one game more.

Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi rued the missed opportunity, saying: "Our players worked very hard, but we dropped two points tonight. Our accuracy was not good enough, and we need to do better."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.