A first half brace from Henrique has helped hand Timor-Leste a crucial advantage in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualification race as they eased passed Brunei Darussalam 3-1 in Saturday’s first leg.

The 20-year-old forward has long been touted as one of Southeast Asia’s most promising young attacking talents and he showed just why with two fine strikes either side of the half hour.

Brunei substitute Azwan Ali Rahman handed his nation what could be a crucial away goal in the 57th minute before the scoring was rounded out in second half stoppage time by another substitute in Timorese forward Silveiro.

Playing at a neutral venue in Malaysia due to lighting issues in Dili, the nominal hosts made a strong start as Henrique just failed to connect with a teasing cross from the right from Paulo Domingos in the tenth minute.

The Timorese then started to assert a real degree of pressure midway through the half with firstly the lively Rufino Gama narrowly missing the target and then Joao Pedro doing likewise with a dangerous volley from the top of the box after he’d been set up by Domingos.

Brunei weren’t without chances of their own though as Adi Said sent off a dangerous effort from distance in the 26th minute but just two minutes later Timor would take the lead.

A teasing cross from the left from fullback Candido was brilliantly chested down by Rufino Gama before being lashed home from on top of the penalty spot by Henrique to hand the hosts a 28th minute advantage.

The pressure kept coming from the Timorese and after Domingos had seen his effort from distance well saved shortly after the half hour he then turned provider for Henrique’s second as a chipped ball saw the 20-year-old race past a retreating defence and fire home to make it 2-0 in the 32nd minute.

Brunei’s lively forward Adi was a real threat for the visitors but after he sent a 37th minute free-kick just wide of the Timorese goal it was the hosts that took their two-goal buffer to the break.

In front of a small but vocal crowd at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium, Timor picked things up where they left off after the restart with midfielder Gelvanio firing just wide in the 49th minute.

That desire to keep pushing forward left space for Brunei to play on the counter though and after fullback Najib almost did so in the 56th minute, a minute later the visitors did manage to pull a goal back.

A quickly taken thrown-in from the left saw Shahrazen Said send in a cross that was headed down by Adi into the path of halftime substitute Azwan Ali Rahman who lashed home across goalkeeper Aderito to make it 2-1 in the 57th minute.

Both nations kept pushing for further goals to take into the second leg with Timor’s Rufino Gama miscuing a 72nd minute freekick before the same player just couldn’t quite connect with a lofted ball from the back in the 88th minute.

Eventually that persistence paid off as it was Rufino Gama who carved out Timor’s third goal as he rounded the keeper following a run down the right and squared the ball for an unmarked Silveiro to tap home barely a metre out from goal to complete the 3-1 win in the second minute of stoppage time.

Timor-Leste now take that two-goal advantage to Bandar Seri Begawan for next weekend’s second leg as both nations bid to qualify for what would be just their second finals appearance at the AFF Suzuki Cup.