Azkals hold Malaysia to a scoreless draw

MANILA, Philippines - Newly appointed Philippine National Men's Football Team coach Thomas Dooley's baptism of fire ended in a draw as the Azkals hold Malaysia scoreless in a FIFA International friendly, Saturday night, in Selayang, Malaysia.

Patrick Deyto had a spectacular debut in between the sticks as he kept the Azkals in the game all-night long, making big saves amidst Malaysia's barrage of shots especially in the first half.

For the third straight time, both squads figured in a draw as the Philippines and Malaysia put up stingy defending but despite the scoreline, it was an eventful tiff with seven yellow cards issued and five Azkals making their debuts.

The Philippines got off to a good start as debutant Ruben Doctora, who paired with Phil Younghusband up front, shone for the Azkals early on, pestering the home team's midfield with his speed but their attacking was hampered by miscommunication on the pitch producing little threat for the Malaysian goalkeeper. 

Having to buck a tentative first 15 minutes, Malaysia slowly got into their groove with Amirizwan Tajudin's header finding the back of the net but his celebration was short-lived his goal got disallowed after an infraction before the cross.

Malaysia - boosted by the loud homecrowd in the outskirts of the Malaysian capital - then had a couple more close calls with Radzak heading the ball to the bar and Safee Sali getting a clear scoring position only to be denied by the bar but the Azkals held on to keep Malaysia off the scoresheet for the rest of the first half. 

The game had to be stopped, however, in the half-hour mark as smoke from a fan's flare covered a big part of the stadium but the officials decided to resume the match several minutes later.

The Azkals' best chance came in the 31st as Global's Mark Hartmann and Misagh Bahadoran connected on the counter but the Malaysian keeper was up to the task and punched away the ball for a corner.

The second half was more evenly-matched as both teams each had turns to score the winner but defenders from both sides displayed a stellar performance to keep their respective teams in the game.

The Green Archers United goalie Deyto pulled off some more saves in the second half, including a one-on-one with Subramaniam Kunanlan inside the last 20 minutes but his Malaysian counterpart was equally impressive as he stopped shots from Phil Younghusband and Mark Hartmann on the opposite side of the field.

Younghusband came close to scoring the go-ahead goal 60 minutes into the match as he found himself too open inside the box but his shot but the keeper dove just in time to stop the shot and keep the Loyola striker from adding up another to his international goals tally.

Debutants Martin Steuble and Simon Rota also had an impressive night for Dooley as Anton del Rosario makes his return to the Azkals side.

Chris Greatwich, Juani Guirado, Steuble, Patrick Reichelt and Jason de Jong each picked up a yellow as Aidil Zafuan and Kunanlan also got carded for Malaysia.

The draw is the fourth one between the Philippines and Malaysia, with the Azkals winning only once against 11 losses in the past decades.

The Azkals will return to action on March 5 against Europe-based squad Azerbaijan in Dubai, UAE. - Rappler.com