THE PHILIPPINES Under-23 side kicked off its buildup for the Southeast Asian Games with a 0-1 defeat to host Singapore in a friendly Thursday night at the Hougang Stadium.
The hastily formed PH side put a brave, valiant fight against a Singapore team powered by young yet experienced standouts.
Defender Safuwan Baharrudin, who played a key role in Singapore’s Suzuki Cup triumph last year, scored the only goal of the match midway in the first half.
Getting a fine performance from former La Salle goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, the Under-23 Azkals, who were made up mostly of players based locally, stayed in the thick of the fight up until the final whistle.
PH team officials, led by manager Rhayan Cruz, are confident that the side will improve with more exposure and playing time together.
The Azkals actually missed coach Brian Reid and some of their best players in OJ Porteria, Jeffrey Christiaens and twins Marwin and Marvin Angeles, who skipped the game in lieu of their United Football League stint.
Although the Under-23 Azkals failed to make it past the group stage in the SEA Games in Indonesia two years ago, the Philippine Football Federation is adamant about fielding a team as almost all SEAG countries will see action in the event in Myanmar in December.