Suzuki Cup: Azkals poised for breakthru
MANILA, Philippines — Coach Michael Weiss is comfortable at the thought of his Philippine Azkals soaking up the pressure and waiting for their chance against a Singapore side expected to be on attack mode right from the get-go in the second leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals tomorrow.
The counter-attacking game has suited the Azkals for much of the tournament and, although he would have loved his side to be confident in possession, Weiss sees the Azkals relying on their solidity at the backline and their ability to create scoring chances in transition.
The Azkals and Lions fought to a goalless standoff Saturday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium, with the second leg to be played at the 8,000-seater Jalan Besar Stadium, which has an artificial pitch.
A scoring draw would be enough for the Azkals to advance due to the away goals rule, and Weiss said their chances only got better with the return of midfielder Jerry Lucena for the second leg.
“We will not risk much; the pitch in Jalan Besar is pretty tight,” Weiss said before the team left for Singapore yesterday morning.
“We have to be patient because we expect to see a more active Singapore on their (home) turf, which may not be the worst thing for us. Against this defense, it will not be easy for Singapore to score even on home soil.”
One player who has stood out defensively for Weiss in the last two matches is Fil-Spanish rightback Carli de Murga, who coped well with the threat posed by Aleksandar Duric on the left wing Saturday night.
“He has been fantastic for us,” said Weiss of the 24-year-old who was only called into action when Ray Jonsson sustained a quad muscle injury in the match against Vietnam.
“The defensive approach has worked for us, but sooner or later we would have to change our style by playing more possession.”
The depth of the side remains the least of Weiss’ worries with defender Jason Sabio and midfielder Chris Greatwich, who scored the late equalizer against the Lions in their group match in Vietnam two years ago, still to play.
Striker Denis Wolf has been used sparingly because of an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, tickets to the second leg are reportedly sold out with Singapore-based Filipinos complaining of the little allotment for Azkals fans for Wednesday’s match.
The Filipinos beat the Singaporeans, 2-0, in a friendly last Sept. 7 at Jurong West Stadium.