Despite being deprived of the services of club top scorer and talisman Rodrigo Tosi in Friday’s StarHub League Cup final, Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota (DPMM) FC coach Steve Kean is confident his side are favourites to claim their first silverware in two years.
The 31-year-old Brazilian attacker will sit out the match after he was given his second caution of the tournament in their semi-final triumph over Geylang International.
Despite the enforced absence, former Blackburn Rovers manager Kean believes the rest of the players will step up to the task.
“Not having Rodrigo is a big miss. He is the focal point of our attacks, our leading goal scorer and a fantastic set-piece taker,” the Scot told FourFourTwo after DPMM’s pre-final training session at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday evening.
“If someone misses out, someone else gets an opportunity. Adi (Said) has done great in this tournament, Roy (O’Donovan) has done well, Juan (Azwan Ali Rahman) has steadied the game, coming in off the bench.”
Brunei’s sole professional club go into the Final brimming with confidence, after a good run so far in all competitions this season under the tutelage of Kean.
Currently top of the S.League and into the last four of the Singapore Cup, the club have the opportunity to clinch some silverware that they last won in 2012 (DPMM finished runners-up last year).
They have overcome Balestier Khalsa, Hougang United, Woodlands Wellington and Geylang to reach their third successive League Cup final since their return to the Singapore football scene in 2012.
The 46-year-old coach cautioned against complacency despite his side having defeated final opponents Tanjong Pagar United 4-0 in their previous meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan two months ago.
“We are good in the league table and probably favourites,” he said.
“But the window is about who performs in that one game. We make sure we play well and not think it’s just a formality of turning up to win.
“We got ourselves in a good position, but haven’t won anything yet, so we need to follow through and make sure all the preparation and hard work count for something.”
With a pretty settled starting eleven with experienced bench players in the side, Kean has hailed his team’s good run in the tournament to strong physical conditioning and mental strength.
“I think we are a very fit team. We do a lot of work on gym, injury prevention and recovery sessions,” he said.
“This is the time – where the games come in every three or four days, when you get the benefits (of intense pre-season and regular fitness sessions). We were the team on the ascendancy against Geylang in extra time.”
A tight contest against a full-strength Tanjong Pagar side, who are only missing suspended captain Hafiz Osman, could potentially stretch the final into extra time and penalties should the need arise.
With their opponents having prevailed over 120 minutes of football over two games, Kean believes a win in extra time could provide the psychological edge.
“Sometimes in a cup competition, it is good to go through extra time and win it,” he explained.
“It brings a psychological advantage, especially with the fact that we have done well in extra time. We are fit and are confident and will be trying to score.”
Image Credit: Weixiang Lim