MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals lived up to their promise of wrapping up the elimination round with a victory, but Cambodia played spoiler.
The Philippine men’s under-22 football team routed Timor-Leste, 6-1, in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games on Wednesday, December 4 at the Biñan Football Stadium in Laguna.
But the Azkals conceded the Final Four spot to Cambodia, which defeated Malaysia, 3-1, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The Philippines wrapped up its campaign with a 2-1-1 win-loss-draw record to finish at 3rd place in Group A of the single-round elimination.
Only the top two teams in each group earned spots in the semifinal round.
In an attempt to break the three-way tie with Cambodia and Malaysia for the last remaining semifinal spot, the Azkals vigorously played like there was no tomorrow, drawing first blood at the 4th minute, courtesy of captain Stephan Schrock.
After Schrock put the Philippines on the scoreboard, his comrades were in heavy pursuit to compound the lead in the next 20 minutes of action as Chima Uzoka and Jarvey Gayoso stepped on the gas pedals, giving Timor-Leste’s defensive line some jitters while making sure that they were not able to convert their attempts.
Before sending it to halftime, Amani Aguinaldo added his name to Timor-Leste’s misery by making sure that the Azkals would have a two-goal leverage against their foreign opposition at the start of the second half, ferociously drilling the ball at the 43rd minute.
Despite lording over Timor-Leste with a 2-nil advantage, the Filipino booters rabidly exploited their adversary, with the intent of jacking up their goal difference against the only winless squad in the tournament.
The bleeding continued for Timor-Leste as Schrock’s free kick found Mar Diano, who pierced the football through his defenders with a header at the 54th minute.
Holding an enormous lead over Timor-Leste, it was more a race against time for the Azkals as they sported their best foot in the last 20 minutes of regulation to net at least 7 goals to beat Cambodia in terms of goal difference,
Dylan De Bruycker kept the Goran Milojevic-mentored brigade’s hope to enter the semifinals alive by scoring at the 78th minute.
Capitalizing on Timor-Leste’s fragmented defensive stops on the field, Aguinaldo padded the Azkals’ lead to 7 goals at the 86th and 90th minute respectively, pulling off a hat trick in the process.
Timor-Leste spoiled the party late in the contest by scoring its lone goal, stashing away the Philippines’ dream of crashing the regional biennial meet’s football knockout stage for the first time in 28 years. – Rappler.com