Azkals slip past Global FC in ICanServe Invitational
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Azkals, flaunting new combinations, squeaked past reigning United Football League Cup champion Global FC, 3-2, Wednesday in the second match of the ICanServe Invitational at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
A header from substitute Ian Araneta five minutes from time proved to be the marginal goal for the Azkals, who took a 2-1 lead at the half after two early strikes from Phil Younghusband.
Misagh Bahadoran, a member of the Azkals playing for Global, cut the Azkals’ lead three minutes before halftime, before a sublime long-range strike from Izo El-Habbib made it 2-all in the 52nd minute.
Araneta, coming in for Mark Hartmann in the 65th minute, finally broke the deadlock with a powerful header into the top corner after meeting Jeff Christiaens’ cross from the left flank.
Using the tournament as part of their preparation for the Long Teng Cup in Taiwan late this month and the Southeast Asian Games in November, the Azkals unveiled a new-look squad that included five members of the Under-23 pool in Mark and Matthew Hartmann, Carli de Murga, Nickson Leonora and Reymark Fernandez.
James Younghusband, a natural right winger, was also deployed at central defense alongside Fernandez in the absence of skipper Aly Borromeo, who was sidelined by an ankle injury, while Lexton Moy, a US-raised midfielder, also made his first start for the Azkals.
Global FC made two changes to the side that started in the 1-nil victory over Kaya FC last Monday with Yu Hoshide rested and Aaron Altiche taking his place on the right flank.
The new combinations worked almost seamlessly in the opening stages as the Azkals saw more of the ball and proved dangerous with quick combination plays on the attacking third.
A sweeping move led to Phil Younghusband’s sweetly-struck left-footed volley from just inside the box four minutes in. Mark Hartmann’s flick-on set up Younghusband to fire past goalkeeper Paolo Pascual.
The Global booters consoled themselves with swift counters and Bahadoran created the first real chance, hitting the crossbar with an awkward left-footed shot from a difficult angle. Azkals goalkeeper Ed Sacapano was alert to keep out two shots from Altiche on the rebound.
Moy, De Murga, Hartmann and Younghusband continued to combine well up front and Hartmann nearly doubled the tally in the 25th minute when Phil found him unmarked inside the area only for him to shoot straight at Pascual.
Younghusband was not to be denied his second goal though five minutes later. Another combination play involving Hartmann and De Murga and an error from Pascual saw Younghusband break free. Valentine Kama did well to save the initial effort off the line, before Younghusband followed it up to make it 2-nil.
With the Azkals pushing their defensive line higher than usual, Global threw balls in behind the defense and Bahadoran, who was causing problems with his pace, burst into the area after a great through ball from El-Habbib to put a side-footed finish past Sacapano in the 42nd minute.
Global started the second half brightly and El-Habbib left the Azkals defense stunned when he lobbed a seemingly harmless ball from the left flank that floated past Sacapano, who was rooted to his spot.
As the game wore on, Global carved up the clearer chances. Bahadoran and El-Habbib were denied anew by an inspired Sacapano in the 60th minute, after they had broken free from an Azkals defensive line that looked weary.
The Azkals put fresh legs in Jake Morallo and Christiaens, who forced a decent low save from Pascual from 12 yards out.
But just when it looked like the match was heading into a stalemate, Araneta, the striker who had also scored in Air Force’s title-clinching 1-1 draw against Global in the UFL last May, delivered the game-winner.
“We had new players in the team, but we must improve,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss.
The Azkals face Kaya on Saturday in the final match of the tournament staged for the benefit of ICanServe Foundation, a group promoting breast cancer awareness.
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