Azkals on top as rivals draw | Inquirer Sports

Azkals on top as rivals draw

Indonesians, Viets settle for 2-2
By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 12:50 AM November 24, 2014

HANOI—Coach Thomas Dooley rolled the dice by injecting major changes in Philippine Azkals’ lineup in the side’s first game in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But the gamble paid dividends as the Azkals delivered a strong statement with a 4-1 drubbing of Laos Saturday night at the start of Group A play at My Dinh Stadium here.

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Later, the Philippines’ bid for a third straight semifinal appearance got a huge boost after Indonesia and Vietnam fought to a thrilling 2-2 draw in the other opening-day Group A clash.

With Indonesia and Vietnam settling for a point each, the Azkals took the group lead.

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The Azkals only need one victory in two of their remaining matches, starting with the Indonesians on Tuesday, to make the semifinals. The Azkals face Vietnam on Friday.

Dooley gave Jerry Lucena a free role at midfield, partnering him with Manny Ott, while putting Martin Steuble at right wing.

A regular starter in recent matches, Patrick Reichelt was surprisingly left out. But he quickly made an impact after coming on in the 65th minute.

Lucena and Ott combined brilliantly to keep the attack flowing for the Azkals, while Steuble unleashed wicked crosses from the flanks that gave the Laos defense fits.

“I think the position the coach gave me is where I’m supposed to be,” said the 34-year-old Lucena, who played at central defense and right wing in the Challenge Cup early this year.

Lucena assisted in the go-ahead goal of Phil Younghusband in first-half stoppage time and made sure the Azkals never ran out of ideas on attack. Lucena played the central midfield role early in his career but now thrives in defense with his club in Denmark.

Coming in for Mark Hartmann, Reichelt sealed the victory with a couple of late goals off assists from Younghusband.

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“Every player is a bit disappointed if he’s not starting,” Reichelt said. “But If I was going to come in, I was going to give my 100 percent. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the win.”

“He’s a great finisher, but he was a bit unlucky,” Dooley said of the misfiring Hartmann.

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TAGS: AFF Suzuki Cup, Coach Thomas Dooley, Football
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