Azkals need to overpower Macau Tuesday after draw with Taiwanese
KAOHSIUNG—On the heels of two successive draws, Philippine Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo no longer sees their final match against Macau Tuesday as a mere stepping stone to the Long Teng Cup title.
Having been with the team through difficult times as well as their triumphant moments, Borromeo is still wary of the backlash if the Azkals play below expectations.
“Winning big tomorrow (Tuesday) will sustain the momentum of our run over the past year,” said Borromeo.
The Azkals’ title hopes are no longer in their hands, after a scoreless draw against Chinese Taipei Sunday night, when goalkeeper Roland Muller sparkled with three excellent first-half saves.
If it was any consolation, the Azkals, despite fielding five members of the Under-23 pool, kept up with a Chinese Taipei side that beat Suzuki Cup champion Malaysia, 3-2, two months ago.
“We played with five Under-23 players and I think they acquitted themselves well,” said Dan Palami, who also manages the squad to the Southeast Asian Games next month.
SEA Games pool members Muller, Jeff Christiaens, Neckson Leonora, Matthew Hartmann and Carli de Murga all played against Chinese Taipei.
“They all showed that at this level they can do something. It’s a good sign for the SEA Games,” said Borromeo, who was skipper of the last Philippine football team that saw action in the biennial meet in 2005.
The Azkals need to put at least five goals past Macau Tuesday night at the National Stadium here and hope that Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong play to a draw for the Filipinos to capture the crown.
A win by either Taiwan or Hong Kong will leave the Azkals fighting for second place— that is if they overcome Macau.
“We hope for a draw from both teams which is still possible because I see them at the same level,” said coach Michael Weiss. “As for us, we need to score a lot of goals.”
The Azkals will miss Angel Guirado against Macau, after the Fil-Spanish midfielder was issued a yellow card for the second straight game against Taiwan.
Jason de Jong will also return to the lineup after sitting out the previous game due to suspension, but Chieffy Caligdong remains doubtful because of a bruised leg he sustained against Chinese Taipei.
The Azkals were left wanting in quality on the final third as Phil Younghusband and Christiaens blew clear chances in the second half against Taiwan.
Caligdong, who scored twice in the 3-3 draw against Hong Kong, made way for Christiaens at halftime and the 19-year-old who grew up in Belgium made an impact, linking up with Younghusband to create the Azkals’ best chances.
But the teenager can only shoot wide from just inside the box. In the 75th minute, he also found Younghusband darting into the box, but the Fil-British striker’s left-footed shot was stopped by Pang Wei-chi.
The new-look defensive line of Borromeo, Oliver Poetschke, De Murga and Leonora proved solid in the last 45 minutes, after a nervy first half where they needed Muller to keep the Taiwanese scoreless.
The offside trap was the defensive weapon of choice by the Taiwanese, who forced the Azkals to nine offsides.
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