Friday, 1 July 2011

Scrappy Azkals to rebound

Posted by chardyboy on Friday, July 01, 2011 0 comments

source: By Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star)

Manila, Philippines - A scene after the Azkals-Brave Reds match, Chieffy Caligdong dropping to the ground, speaks volumes about the souped-up Philippine men’s football team’s disappointment with its 1-1 draw with Sri Lanka Wednesday night.

“Decent result, scrappy game,” skipper Aly Borromeo posted on Twitter hours after the first leg of their first round encounter in the 2014 Fifa World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Colombo, where they were held to the standoff and worse, lost star striker Phil Younghusband to a hamstring injury.

Like true pros, though, the Azkals will lick their wounds and move on, especially with the second leg to be played in front of some 13,000 supporters at the refurbished Rizal pitch.

“Bawi na lang kami sa Manila...sana di kayo magsawa sa suporta (We’ll bounce back in Manila. Hope you won’t get tired supporting us),” Caligdong twitted.

But the problem is the Azkals may have to make a go at it possibly without the Fil-British Younghusband, who injured his right hamstring anew. It was the same injury that sidelined him in the Azkals’ campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup group stages last March.

“He (Younghusband) will be checked by the doctors and will undergo tests tomorrow (today). We’ll have to wait for what the doctors will recommend,” said Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta.
The PFF boss added it is possible they would not force the issue on Younghusband. “It won’t do us good if we risk it. We need him more if we qualify to the next round against Kuwait,” Araneta said.

Having assembled the best possible team and toughened up by a two-week training in Germany, expectations on the Azkals were high going into their away match.

“We would have wanted a two-goal cushion. But we can’t always get what we want,” team manager Dan Palami said.

Engaged in a rugged battle by the Brave Reds while having to deal with the hard conditions of pitch at Sugathadasa Stadium, the Azkals surrendered the first goal - a Chathura Guranarathna free kick (43rd) from 30 yards that slipped past a gap on the Phl wall and beyond Neil Etheridge’s reach.

It took a crucial header (50th) from Fil-Am Nate Burkey, subbing for the injured Phil Younghusband, who followed up a saved header from James Younghusband off a Caligdong free kick to make it even.

“We could have finished the match in the first half. But we didn’t do it and we got punished. The goal (of Sri Lanka) was unlucky, it was deflected. We continued to play and press for a goal in the second half.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish them off,” said coach Michael Weiss.
“We were lucky at the end. It’s a good result for us. We wanted to win but things don’t turn out as planned,” he added.
The German mentor noted that the surface affected their game.

“The conditions on the pitch were difficult. I don’t want to make it an excuse but it was difficult to have a passing game on that pitch. We had to play long balls. It’s not my favorite style of play but we were able to create chances with it,” he said.

But with Rizal’s better pitch and crowd support, the Azkals look to show more bite on Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. second leg.

“It’s going to be different crowd, a different pitch and as long as we learned from this draw, we will be okay. I’m confident that the guys will be able to play the way they should considering the crowd and the pitch,” said Palami.

With a one-goal away cushion, Phl can afford to have a scoreless draw and still advance to the second round against Kuwait. But they want to finish it strong and make history for Phl football.

“We will go for the win and not just the draw,” Palami said.


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