Peace Cup: Burma foils PH Azkals
As if losing the title they’ve won the past two years wasn’t enough, the Philippine Azkals had to endure the pain of watching Burma (Myanmar) celebrate in front of them and their own fans Saturday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals lost their second final in four months, this time a 2-3 setback to the Burmese side in extra time in the Philippine Peace Cup.
Playing before a bigger crowd than the one that showed up Wednesday night, the Azkals fought back from an early deficit with goals from Daisuke Sato and Phil Younghusband.
The Azkals were a couple of minutes away from winning a third straight title, but the visitors had other plans with substitute Min Min Thu beating Roland Muller with a header two minutes into second half stoppage time to make it 2-2.
“It’s pretty hard to take, especially here in Rizal in front of our own fans,” said Azkals skipper Rob Gier.
“We didn’t have a great game,” admitted Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. “I don’t think we played to the level that we can actually play.”
The Azkals lost control of the match in the extra period and Burma deservedly went ahead through Soe Min Oo, whose 100th-minute strike turned out to be the match winner.
Kyaw Ko Ko opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a curling strike from the right, beating Muller who was expecting a cross rather than a shot. But the Azkals cranked up the pressure in the second half with Sato grabbing his first international goal with a low shot from just outside the box in the 49th minute.
The Azkals finally went ahead through Younghusband in the 71st minute, after Patrick Reichelt was brought down inside the box.
But Burma, which failed to even get past the group stage of the AFC Challenge Cup, refused to wilt, mounting a sensational comeback that silenced the home crowd.
“It’s a great honor to win this tournament against a strong opponent like the Philippines,” said Burma’s Serbian coach Raddy Avramovic, who was the mentor of the Singapore side that beat the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup two years ago.
The Azkals are preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup late this year and Gier said they should be putting the lessons of the last four months to good use in the regional tournament.
“Hopefully losing these two finals will make us stronger when we reach the finals of the Suzuki Cup, which I honestly believe we can win,” said Gier.
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