Azkals defeat Vietnam in teeth-clenching victory

Icko de Guzman
The Philippine men's football team won their crucial match against Vietnam 1-0 thanks to an 85th minute goal by substitute Chieffy Caligdong

ALL HAIL CHIEFFY. Chieffy Caligdong scored the lone goal of the match in the Azkals' crucial victory over Vietnam. Photo by Anton Sheker.

BANGKOK, Thailand (UPDATED) – The men’s Philippine football team showed winning form in their 1-0 defeat of powerhouse Vietnam in their crucial Suzuki Cup match, Tuesday, November 27 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand thanks to a phenomenal late goal by substitute Chieffy Caligdong.

Caligdong blasted the ball into the back of the net with his left foot off of an Angel Guirado pass from the right on the 85th minute.

The win kept the Azkals’ title hopes alive, and put them a step closer to the semi-finals, after a 2-1 won loss to Thailand last Saturday, November 24.

Head coach Michael Weiss introduced Jason de Jong and Patrick Reichelt at the starting eleven, replacing Angel Guirado and Caligdong.

But it was Guirado and Caligdong from the bench who sealed the win for the Azkals.

Tough game

It became a feisty affair early on as both sides traded barbs in the first half, but both were unable to break the deadlock.

Le Tan Tai broke free in the 3rd minute only for his shot to be denied by the in-form Philippine goalkeeper Eduard Sacapano.

A cross from Paul Mulders almost found Phil Younghusband in the 5th minute but Duong Hong Son on goal beat the striker and snatched the ball in mid-air.

Younghusband then had a golden opportunity in the 12th minute from a pass from brother James only to slip in his run towards the ball.

De Jong broke free in the 24th minute but his cross was stopped by Son, causing Vietnam to create a counter attack that was also denied by Sacapano on the other end.

By the second half, Vietnam became more attack-minded and held possession for longer periods but they were unable to break down the defensive line of the Azkals.

Coach Edwin Cabalida, who manned the side in the absence of Weiss, then made his first change of the match in the 55th minute as Angel Guirado replaced Paul Mulders. In the 63rd minute, forward Denis Wolf also replaced Phil Younghusband, who was booked in the first half for simulation.

Winning shot

Then came Caligdong who replaced James Younghusband in the 73rd minute that sparked the attack of the Azkals as they pressed for a late winner.

A through ball from Guirado found Caligdong rushing towards the penalty area in the 76th minute, but was able to get a corner as his defender knock the ball past the line.

(Watch the game’s highlights courtesy of the AFF Suzuki Cup website below)

Caligdong returned the favor as his cross in the 78th minute found Guirado open but his header was denied by Son.

Guirado was again influential in the 82nd minute when he ran past his marker in the right wing until the penalty area but his shot on goal was denied by a rushing defender, that drew the ire of the Filipino-Spaniard after the defender was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area.

But it was for the Azkals skipper to get the limelight after Guirado found Caligdong in the 85th minute, allowing the midfielder to put a left footed curling shot past Son for the go ahead goal late in the second half.

Vietnam quickly replied and was denied an equalizer in the 87th minute after a shot attempt was denied by the crossbar, sealing the misery for the Red Warriors and jubilation for the Azkals.

Stellar defense

“We were able to withstand the attack of Vietnam,” said coach Michael Weiss after the match.

The German was again in full praise of his substitutes, especially Caligdong who scored the winner, but also praised his back line who were equally influential as the substitutes.

“They (the substitutes) changed the match, but also credit the back four, they complemented the team,” said Weiss.

In 2010, the Azkals bested Vietnam for the first time in history, known as one of the tournament’s biggest upsets ever. Not only did the Philippines advance to the semi-finals, it also made the Azkals a household name in the country.

The Philippines’ final group game is on Friday, November 30 against Myanmar.

Myanmar earlier lost to Thailand 4-0 with Thai striker Teerasil Dangda scoring a hat-trick for the hosts, forcing them to draw level with Vietnam on points, but having an inferior goal difference.

Vietnam now has 1 point following the game, while the Azkals have 3 with the victory. Thailand has 6 points and is assured a semifinal spot, while Myanmar is tied with Vietnam with 1 point. – Rappler.com