Brunei Darussalam will return to the regional stage for the first time in 26 years after completing a 6-3 aggregate win over Timor-Leste in the Qualification Round of the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022.

Having lost Saturday’s first leg 6-2, it was a vastly improved showing from Timor-Leste who ran out 1-0 winners in the second leg, also played in Berakas, but it’s Brunei that qualify for next month’s tournament proper where they’ll join Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia in Group A.

After an enthralling first leg, goals were much harder to come by in this return fixture where the mid-afternoon heat saw a slower tempo with Timor scoring the only goal of the contest in first half stoppage time via captain Mouzinho.

Following a tight opening spell, it was Timor-Leste that came closest to opening the scoring as a deep cross from the right from Olagar Xavier was met by an off-balance Joao Pedro who could only send his effort wide of the target on the quarter hour before Jhon Frith was thwarted at close range by Brunei goalkeeper Haimie Nyaring on the half hour after some intricate one-twos had sent the central midfielder clear through on goal.

Brunei then had a chance to take the lead as Nazirrddin Ismail burst into the box only to fail to get a shot off before it was Timor that struck in the second minute of stoppage time as a cross from the left from Joao Pedro was tucked home at the back post by a sliding Mouzinho.

Only a well-timed tackle from Brunei defender Wafi Aminuddin prevented the dangerous Joao Pedro from getting a shot off ten minutes after the restart as he was once again released by Mouzinho before Brunei winger Hakeme Yazid tried his luck from distance midway through the half.

With time running out and Timor needing goals they continued to push forward with a 74th minute Mouzinho freekick going straight at keeper Haimie Nyaring before Mario Donasio clipped the bar with an 82nd minute effort.

The tireless Mouzinho then struck the side netting as time wound down with Timor-Leste running out 1-0 winners on the afternoon but it was Brunei that progressed through to the Group Stage for just the second time in their history.