Asian football

‘Silly 3 minutes’: Azkals coach rues slip in Suzuki Cup opener

Juro Morilla
‘Silly 3 minutes’: Azkals coach rues slip in Suzuki Cup opener

DEBUT. Bienve Maranon makes his debut for the Philippine Azkals.

Philippine Football Federation

Azkals head coach Stewart Hall believes the team can take its learnings to the next games

Azkals head coach Stewart Hall regrets the errors the Philippine men’s football team committed in a three-minute stretch against Singapore in what was an otherwise steady showing in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

“I didn’t think we’d get beaten to be honest, so I’m disappointed that we have got beaten,” said Hall. “If you look at it, we’ve got beaten in three minutes. We’ve had a crazy, silly three minutes and thrown away 87 minutes of hard work, but that’s football, you have to learn from that.”

The Philippine Azkals lost their first match in the regional biennial football tournament on Wednesday, December 8, after conceding two successive goals in the second half against Singapore. Team captain Hariss Harun and Faris Ramli got on the scoresheet at the 62nd and 64th minute, respectively.

Hall said the Azkals should definitely learn from the experience.

“Three crazy minutes. Two flick-ons from the corner and the marking wasn’t good enough, and then a mistake on the halfway line where we could’ve kept the ball, on the breakout, on the transition, and we give it away and they got in behind us again,” said Hall.

“But after that, credit to the players, we’ve gone up a gear, we’ve changed things a little. We’ve gone up a gear and I thought our attitude in the last 20 to 25 minutes was excellent and we easily could’ve equalized. So I’m pleased with that and that’s something to build on.”

It was a spot on analysis from Hall, and team captain Stephan Schröck shared the same sentiments.

“Unlucky that in three minutes, we concede two goals,” said Schröck. “I think we got a little bit better into the game in the second half. We will try to analyze the mistakes and build on the good things.”

After conceding the second goal, the Azkals indeed responded well as they immediately found the back of the net at the 69th minute with a towering header from Amin Nazari. 

The Philippines continued to push for an equalizer as Hall brought in Angel Guirado, Mike Ott, and Oskari Kekkonen off the bench for Oliver Bias, Kevin Ingresso, and Bienvenido Marañon respectively. It was the veteran forward Guirado who almost had an immediate impact as he had two chances – a right-footed shot and a header –  in the dying minutes of the match, but was denied a vital goal. 

The match eventually ended at 2-1, which catapulted Singapore to the top of Group A after two games, while sending the Philippines near bottom alongside winless and goalless Timor Leste, which has played two matches as well and already conceded four.

Only the top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinal stage of the tournament, but the narrow loss did not discourage Hall from believing that the Azkals can reach that phase. 

“We probably got to win three games to go though, or if we’re lucky, two wins and a draw. We know that, we know where we are and what’s stacked against us,” he said. 

“As long as the attitude is like that, we have a chance. As long as the attitude is as good as that, we have a chance.” 

The first of three crucial matches that the Azkals will play in the next few days is against fellow bottom dwellers Timor Leste on Saturday, December 11, at 5:30 pm. –