After 40 years, Azkals topple SingaporeBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SINGAPORE—Fueled by a virtuoso performance from Stephan Schrock and the quality finishing of Chieffy Caligdong and Phil Younghusband, the Philippines finally broke a long winless spell against Singapore with a 2-0 thumping Friday night at the Jurong West Stadium here.
In one of the national side’s finest performances, Caligdong and Younghusband supplied the finish to well-crafted counter-attacking moves as the Filipinos won for the first time in 40 years against one of the traditional powerhouses of Southeast Asia.
Both teams were making use of the friendly match to sharpen up for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November, but for a Filipino side always aching to prove itself, the win meant so much more.
“I’ve always believed that we could be there with the best in Southeast Asia and tonight we were able to prove that somehow we can actually win against a strong team in the region,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
“It’s a massive statement,” said defender Rob Gier. “We’ve always been in the shadow and people saying that we were lucky in the Suzuki Cup. This shows that we are contenders for this year’s tournament.”
Schrock’s brilliance, a resolute defense anchored by Gier, Jerry Lucena and Jason Sabio and quicker combination plays compared to the scoreless draw against Cambodia helped the Azkals avenged their 0-2 loss to Singapore in October last year.
“It just shows that we have come a good way from last year,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss. “But definitely by far we’re still not at the level where we could be.”
Against the run of play, Schrock found Caligdong, whose classy right-footed finish took a fortunate bounce of a rough patch of grass in front of goal before finding the back of the net.
Younghusband atoned for a couple of early misses with a left-footed strike in the 49th that came after Schrock floated a measured ball into his path just outside the box.
Caligdong could have made it 3-nil when he latched unto a cross from Carli de Murga in the 62nd minute, but only managed a foot save from Singapore goalkeeper Hyrulbizam Jumaat.
Singapore actually had the first clear chance when Shi Jiayi’s low shot was stopped by Neil Etheridge in the fourth minute. The Lions had a goal disallowed for offside in the 36th minute when Fazrul Nawaz tapped in from close range and almost forced an own goal when Etheridge bobbled a header by Shi five minutes later.