Azkals thump Laos in big Suzuki Cup start
HANOI—The Philippine Azkals made a triumphant return to the site of their biggest victory.
Substitute Patrick Reichelt struck twice while Phil Younghusband and Simone Rota were also on target as the Azkals came from behind to thump Laos, 4-1, Saturday night at the start of Group A hostilities in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup at My Dinh Stadium here.
Veteran Jerry Lucena, Misagh Bahadoran and Manny Ott delivered a dynamic display at midfield, helping lay the foundation for the most one-sided victory of the Azkals’ in the tournament.
The win may not have the same impact as the one the Azkals pulled off in the same stadium four years ago when they stunned Vietnam.
“It was a difficult game,” said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. “But I’m happy with us scoring all the goals and coming back from a goal down.”
“It was a nice way to start, but we still need to improve if we want to qualify from this group,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
There were concerns over the Azkals’ form in recent weeks after a 0-3 loss to Thailand and an unimpressive 3-0 win over Cambodia in their last warmup match.
And for a while, those fears proved true as the team lacked the quality to finish early chances and trailed in the 21st minute following a piece of brilliance from Kampeng Sayavutth, whose precise free kick from 30 yards out ricocheted off the post and crossed the line.
The Filipinos should have been awarded with an equalizer in the 30th minute when Lucena’s effort crossed the line before it was cleared. The equalizer finally came in the 40th minute when Rota rushed to the near post to direct Ott’s corner into the bottom corner. Growing in confidence, the Azkals took the lead just before halftime as Younghusband bagged his 41st goal with a header after a selfless run and cross from Lucena on the left.
The Azkals could have killed the game early had they finished a slew of glorious opportunities. But they also needed timely interventions from Patrick Deyto in the second half to deny Laos an equalizer. Coming in for Hartmann in the 65th minute, Reichelt made an impact with a composed finish after he was released by Younghusband down the middle in the 76th minute.
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