Azkals match hype, crush GuamBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BACOLOD—Returning to the site of its biggest triumphs, the Philippines rolled to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Guam Tuesday night to end the last of its three friendly matches in emphatic fashion at the Panaad Stadium.
Three first-half goals, including two from Angel Guirado, proved enough for the Azkals, who looked every bit the strong team that it was heralded against a side ranked 40 places lower than them in the Fifa rankings.
Playing with a spring in their step even after back-to-back draws against Indonesia and Malaysia, the Azkals laid siege in front of the Guam goal for long periods, and were unlucky not to score more despite their spunk.
“I think we should be satisfied because we had plenty of scoring opportunities,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss. “The important thing is that players like Dennis (Cagara) and Jerry (Lucena) were able to spend time and play with the team.”
Weiss is using the match as part of their preparations for the Suzuki Cup late this year.
And for James Younghusband who skippered the side, the victory gives the Azkals plenty of confidence as they lay the foundation for another run at the regional crown.
The Azkals’ result from their three friendly matches in June was enough for Weiss.
All three goals bore hallmarks of the Azkals’ attacking quality with Guirado producing a piece of magic with a curling strike eight minutes into the match and De Murga completing a fine goal to double the lead five minutes later to the delight of the huge crowd.
The Azkals also scored on a set piece with Cagara providing a good ball for Guirado to head home just before halftime.
Guam rarely threatened, but had a couple of close calls in the first half when the Azkals defense was caught napping.
Except for a tame long-range effort from Jonahan Romero midway in the second half that was saved by Neil Etheridge, there was hardly any pressure from the Guamanians.
The Azkals couldn’t add to their tally in a torrid second half.
“It seemed that every player was so eager to score, and that made it more difficult to score,” said James Younghusband.
University of the Philippines coach Anto Gonzales, at 31, made his return to the national team after a five-year absence, coming in as a second half substitute, along with Suzuki Cup veteran Jason de Jong and teenager Jeff Christiaens.