MANILA, Philippines - Philippines head coach Michael Weiss blamed a weak midfield for the uninspired performance of the Azkals against Singapore in the first leg of their semi-finals match Saturday, December 8.
"We need to have more ball possession in the midfield," he said in evaluating the game.
Weiss added that he made a few adjustments in the second half in an attempt to fix the problem, but it was not enough.
Marwin Angeles came in for Jason de Jong in the second half after Weiss said the latter's passes were consecutively off, and while Weiss said Angeles did a better job, he admitted that they still needed work in the midfield.
The Philippines' first home game in the history of the tournament ended in a scoreless draw, after neither teams could get the ball to the back of the net.
Short on praises, both head coaches of the Philippines and Singapore accepted the result with few positive words for their respective teams.
Singapore head coach Radojko Avramovic admitted his team played well, but refused to say it was their best performance yet.
"Its was a good game," Avramovic said. "We've been attacking… we deserve to score but we didn't score."
He said Singapore was better at creating chances than the Azkals, but that the attempts didn't ultimately matter because neither team scored in the end.
Philippines head coach Michael Weiss expressed regret that the energy from the team came later.
"I wish the team could have pushed earlier so it could've been easier for us," he said, referring to the Philippines' slow and lethargic first half showing.
He said the team came out stronger in the second half, but that it still was far from the team's best effort.
The Philippines have defeated the Lions twice in the past in two international friendlies, including a match a week before the Suzuki Cup group stages, 1-0 in Cebu City.
Praise for Sacapaño
Weiss said that 3-4 players were subpar, which caught him by surprise, because he said the team was "upbeat" before the match and excited to play in front of the home crowd.
He agreed that the pressure to impress the home crowd might have played a factor in the Azkals' game.
Weiss however, was not short on words when it came to goalkeeper Ed Sacapaño. The German coach called Sacapaño "fantastic," saying he had no complaints about his performance.
It was Sacapaño's third consecutive clean sheet of the tournament, after he made crucial saves in the match to keep the Azkals in the game.
But Weiss stayed optimistic about getting the victory come the second leg of the semis. Weiss promised he would work on the midfield for their upcoming game, and mentioned that Denmark-based midfielder Jerry Lucena would be joining them in Singapore after playing in the first two games of the tournament.
Weiss has called Lucena's presence in the midfield crucial and influential to the team's success.
"If we can step up and bring 100% we have a chance," he said.
The second leg of the semifinals is scheduled for Wendesday, December 12 in Singapore. - Rappler.com