An in-form Indonesian side kept its mastery of the Philippines with a 2-0 victory in an international friendly Wednesday night at a jampacked Manahan Stadium in Solo, Indonesia.
Far from their best form with majority of their players on a break from league play, the Azkals conceded a goal in each half and lost for the third time in four meetings against their Southeast Asian rivals.
Backed by close to 25,000 supporters, Indonesia’s naturalized player Greg Nwokolo from Nigeria struck the opener with a close-range strike off a clever ball into the box by Stefano Lilipaly in the 31st minute.
Mohammad Rubi doubled the lead in the 66th minute by heading home a corner kick.
Playing in a cauldron-like atmosphere, the travel-weary Azkals, who arrived a day before the match after 15 hours of travel from Manila, found difficulty getting into the flow of their attack and looked vulnerable on defense with every Indonesian foray.
With their substitutes making an impact, the Azkals threatened late on with Marwin Angeles sending an effort from inside the area wide in the 78th minute and OJ Porteria also firing wide from a difficult angle a minute later after Misagh Bahadoran and Angeles had cleverly set him up.
Phil Younghusband also shot wide, attempting to finish off a quick counter-attack in the Azkals’ best chance in the 83rd minute.
“It’s disappointing but I have to take the positives from the match,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami, who watched the game from Manila. “We were able to play our Under-23 players which really bodes well for the future, especially for our SEA Games preparations.”
With the AFC Challenge Cup still seven months away, coach Michael Weiss took the match as an opportunity to tinker with the lineup.
The likes of Stephan Schrock, Javier Patino, Jerry Lucena, Neil Etheridge, Juani Guirado and Dennis Cagara were also unavailable due to club commitments.
Without an experienced centerback to pair up with Rob Gier, Weiss opted to deploy rightback Carli de Murga in the middle and placed James Young-husband, a right winger, at rightback in another makeshift backline.
Weiss also showed plenty of confidence in his young players, starting Mark Hartmann with Phil Younghusband up front and bringing in 18-year-old defender Amani Aguinaldo who played close to 30 minutes. Jerry Barbaso also replaced James Younghusband in the second half.
“After a first game for our team after a long layoff, I can look into the future and say we’ll know what to do in the next few months and where the direction will be for the preparations in the Challenge Cup,” said Palami.