Chieffy Caligdong strikes anew but Azkals fall short
KAOHSIUNG – Starter or substitute, Chieffy Caligdong made sure he created a big impact on the Philippine Azkals’ game.
Doubtful prior to the match because of a leg injury, Caligdong came off the bench to score two second half goals to power the Azkals to a 2-0 victory over Macau Tuesday night in the Long Teng Cup at the National Stadium here.
Needing a five-goal romp to stand a shot of getting the crown, the Azkals were given a ray of hope by another sterling performance from the Barotac Nuevo native, who also scored twice in the 3-3 draw against Hong Kong last Friday.
“I can still feel the pain on my leg but I’m happy to have contributed in the win,” the 5-foot-5 Caligdong, who sustained the injury against Chinese-Taipei, said in Filipino.
The Azkals finished the four-nation tournament among neighbors Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau with five points on a win and two draws.
It’s not enough to give the Azkals the crown, but the tally was good for second place —an improvement from last year’s third-place finish.
Hong Kong dominated host Chinese Taipei, 6-0, to win the title.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss rued his squad’s inability to break the Macau side more often despite long spells of possession.
“Macau is not the team it used to be but we were also not creative enough with this formation,” Weiss admitted. “Overall, I’m not disappointed but I’m not very happy.”
It took Caligdong’s introduction at halftime to give the Azkals much-needed attacking verve.
Caligdong hit the post three minutes into the second half after a mazy run at the midfield and 11 minutes later, he opened the scoring from a set piece.
Mark Hartmann, given a stern warning by team officials for going on social networking site Twitter to complain of his role as a substitute against Chinese-Taipei, delivered the free kick for Caligdong, who followed up his saved effort.
The Azkals kept up the pressure and were rewarded by Caligdong’s 87th minute strike off an assist from Hartmann.
“The great thing about Chieffy is that he finds a way to make his presence felt just when you think he is finished,” said team manager Dan Palami.
Facing a side ranked 191st in the world, the Azkals, parading a new starting lineup for the third straight game, carved out at least three chances in the first half, largely because of the 19-year-old Fil-Belgian Jeff Christiaens, who was inserted into the starting lineup in lieu of Caligdong.
A menace on the left flank, Christiaens blitzed past his defender, before firing just wide in the 11th minute. He also sent Ian Araneta through on the left but the Air Force striker’s shot was saved well by Ho Man Fai in the 28th minute.
But the Azkals nearly fell behind in the 40th minute when Leong Ka Hang found plenty of space on the right before firing a shot that grazed the crossbar.
The Azkals return to Manila Wednesday before flying to Singapore for a friendly against the Southeast Asian powerhouse at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.