All eyes on Sacapano as Azkals best Singapore

Icko de Guzman
Goalkeeper Eduard Sacapaño stood out with his exemplary performance and crucial saves in the impressive 1-0 win of the Philippine men's basketball team over Singapore

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals head to Bangkok with their heads held high after a resounding 1-0 victory over Singapore at the Cebu City Sports Complex Thursday, November 15 in their FIFA-sponsored international friendly.

Marwin Angeles scored his first international goal for the Philippines in the 54th minute, capitalizing on Patrick Reichelt’s attempt to the far post.

But the night’s superstar was none other than goalkeeper Eduard Sacapaño who had another man of the match performance, as he made several crucial saves throughout the game — including Shi Jiayi’s penalty kick in the first half of injury time.

Slow start

Things did not start easy for the Azkals early on as Singapore was a continuous threat towards the Philippine box, but the central defense combination of Juan Guirado and Rob Gier were too much for every wave of attack.

Chances came begging for Singapore’s Shahdan Sulaiman in the 10th minute only for Sacapaño to foil the attempt.

The Philippines came rushing back in the 14th minute as Jeffrey Christiaens’ shot was denied by goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at.

It was even for both sides heading into the half, however the fans in the stadium were sent to shock after Christiaens conceded a penalty at the stroke of half-time.

Sacapano remained cool in the spot kick, guessing correctly Shi Jiayi’s strike, sparking pandemonium in the stadium after the Army goalkeeper had his second straight penalty save — the first one against Chinese Taipei last September.

Shuffled line-up

Head coach Michael Weiss saw three changes at half-time with brothers Phil and James Younghusband and Angeles on for Chris Greatwich, Jeffrey Christiaens and skipper Emelio Caligdong, while Shi Jiayi was replaced by Singapore’s talented forward Aleksandar Duric.

Right at the restart, Singapore continued to press on in attack but again Sacapaño was not to be stopped with in the free kick in the 48th minute.

Jubilation then ensued in the stadium in the 54th minute when Phil Younghusband sent a long ball towards Reichelt. The forward attempted to hit the far post but it was deflected by Juma’at, only for Angeles to be at the right place at the right time for the go-ahead goal.

Sacapño again was under the limelight on the 73rd minute after denying Singapore twice in quick succession, first a free kick then the rebound.

Denis Wolf had two chances to double the lead but his header was tipped by Juma’at in the 77th minute and denied by the cross bar in the 80th minute.

Singapore almost had a lifeline late in the match when they finally beat Sacapaño in the 90th minute.

However the referee disallowed the goal following a foul inside the penalty area.

Late substitute Ian Araneta almost scored late in the match, but it was also not counted by the referee because of offsides. Nonetheless, it was too late for Singapore to latch on a comeback as the Azkals won over the Lions 1-0.

‘Hard fought’

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic after the match, said the game felt more challenging compared to past matches against the Azkals.

“I think it was more competitive here,” said Avramovic in a press conference.

He also noted the performance of Azkals goalkeeper Eduard Sacapaño and wished the Azkals good luck in the Suzuki Cup.

Azkals coach Michael Weiss celebrated his team’s performance especially in the second half, after his half-time substitutions.

“It was a hard fought victory,” said the German, “we [were] lucky not to be punished in the first half.”

Weiss also celebrated Sacapaño, heaping praise upon his goalkeeper.

“Sacapaño performed beyond my expectations, he has performed well for the past year. With Eduard we are in good hands,” added the German.

Sacapaño, 32, was grateful for the support of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Salamat sa coaching staff at kay Coach Weiss sa tiwala na binigay nila sa akin (Thank you to the coaching staff and to Coach Weiss for the trust they’ve given me),” said the Azkals stopper.

The Azkals are now going to set their sights on the Asean Football Suzuki Cup, where the Azkals will face Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. –

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