MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Azkals opened their campaign with a huge first win over Singapore in the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup, 1-0, on Tuesday, November 13, at the Pana-ad Park and Stadium in Bacolod.
After a frustrating first half, Patrick Reichelt opened the scoreline in the 78th minute after capitalizing on a touch by Phil Younghusband – who capped for the Philippines for the 100th time – to go one-on-one with Sunny Hassan and fired towards the back of the net.
Prior to the goal, the fatigued Lions lost two forwards Faris Ramil and Sharhril Ishak to cramps which proved to be crucial losses on Singapore’s offense.
Four minutes after the opening goal, the Lions had a chance to equalize in the 6-yard box but Filipino-Japanese defender Daisuke Sato came up for a body block to deflect the ball.
“It’s a very big win, a very important win. These 3 points are very very important for us. I think we deserve it. I think we were the better team, one-nil, it could have been two so I’m very happy,” said head coach Sven-Göran Eriksson after his winning debut as Philippine coach.
The Azkals halted Singapore, which had hoped to ride on the momentum of its opening game win against Indonesia, 1-0, last Saturday, November 9.
With the key victory, the Philippines picked up its first 3 points in an early logjam with Thailand and Indonesia in Group B.
The Azkals will face Timor Leste on Saturday, November 17, 8 pm at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium in Malaysia.
Despite a scoreless first half, the Azkals dominated but had difficulty converting at the attacking third.
In the 34th minute, Sato came in for central defender Luke Woodland, who was rushed to the emergency room after sustaining an injury from a hard tackle.
But Sato changed the pace for the Azkals as he effectively brought the ball down to the attacking third and it forced the Lions to threaten physically that booked them a total of two yellow cards on Safuwan Baharudin and Yasir Hanapi in the first half alone.
At the start of the second half, James Younghusband came in for Mike Ott to provide the height advantage in the attacking midfielder role.
The older Younghusband was a positive impact subtitute as he was close to opening the scoreline in the 63rd minute off a pass from Stephan Schrock and almost doubled the lead in the 89th minute as he fired a shot from the center off a cross from debuting John-Patrick Strauss. – Rappler.com