Kuching: Coach Tam Iao San hailed his team’s second half performance against Brunei Darussalam and the impact of striker Nicholas Torrao off the bench as Macau booked their place in the final of the 2016 AFC Solidarity Cup.
Macau came from going a goal behind in the first half to Shahrazen Said to level the scores via Leong Ka Hang and eventually win 4-3 on penalties against a Brunei side reduced to 10 men from the 55th minute when goalkeeper Wardun Yussof was sent off for a foul on Torrao.
The 28-year-old had started on the bench after missing the game against Sri Lanka, returning to Macau last week before arriving back in Kuching in the early hours of Saturday morning, and his influence was keenly felt once he was introduced at the start of the second half.
“I want to thank the players because they tried 100 percent, even when we were behind,” said Tam. “We kept the faith until the end. Both teams, even Brunei with one player less, they kept fighting until the penalties.
“We’re into the final and its’s very important for Macau football. Today many people in Macau were concerned about the match and watched it live, so it’s an encouragement for the young generation in Macau football.
“Torrao just arrived this morning at six o’clock and he’s not totally fit, he’s still slightly injured with a muscle strain but he can hold the ball in front and he can set the play for others to support him. He’s important for our attack, this is no doubt.”
Torrao’s physical presence gave Macau’s attack a focal point and when Yussof was dismissed for upending the forward, the momentum of the game swung in his side’s favour. From the resulting free kick, Leong struck to level the scores and Macau managed to make it through to penalties despite being outplayed when holding a numerical advantage.
Goalkeeper Ho Man Fai then set himself up to be the hero, saving from Rosmin Kamis and Maududi Kasmi in the shootout to send Macau into a meeting with Nepal in Tuesday’s final.
“Today was not our best performance, especially in the first half we didn’t play well,” said Tam. “We didn’t have confidence to use the ball, to build up from defence and we weren’t very compact.
“We were better in the second half, at the beginning we wanted to show ourselves and get a goal and that’s why we created chances. Finally we got the victory and I’d just like to thank the players.”
Brunei coach Kwon Oh-son was left frustrated after seeing his side lose their half-time lead, despite a stellar performance in attack from Leicester City winger Faiq Bolkiah throughout the 120 minutes.
“The players fought really well for more than one hour with only 10 men,” said coach Kwon. “It’s true that really I didn’t expect the players to play this well with 10 men. They were excellent and we had plenty of chances, which is amazing with 10 against 11. We were fully prepared for the game mentally, physical and technically as well.
“Faiq was very important, he brought us a lot of positivity and he was excellent. I want to praise every aspect of his performance because he only arrived from the UK yesterday and it’s a 15-hour journey and he was ready in every way and he played the whole game. He was excellent, he’s an icon of Brunei and for South East Asian football and he can grow to be a world-class player. It’s important to support him well.”