Azkals score home win
BACOLOD CITY—Playing in his home pitch, Patrick Reichelt struck in the 78th minute as the Philippines subdued Singapore, 1-0, late Tuesday night to open its AFF Suzuki Cup on a winning note at Panaad Stadium here.
Reichelt, the standout winger of Ceres-Negros, broke through the Singapore defense after brothers Phil and James Younghusband combined on the right as the Azkals finally unlocked a tight and compact Singapore defense.
“It’s amazing, scoring at Panaad and getting the three points to start the tournament,” said Reichelt. “We had some problems at the start, but we changed the game in the second half. James (Younghusband) helped us a lot and we made everything quicker.”
The goal was a fitting reward for the pressure put in by the Azkals right from the start. The home side bossed possession, but couldn’t seem to find that final ball to break down the Singaporeans.
Stephan Schrock was excellent on the left and debutant Patrick Strauss also sparkled in midfield, holding his own against Singaporean star Harris Harun.
More importantly, the Azkals picked up three points in what was considered as a potential banana skin for them.
They also gifted coach Sven Goran Eriksson a victory in his debut.
“We’re happy we got the three points, but it was a difficult game,” said Eriksson. “Singapore was playing direct and they were very difficult to defend. But tactically we made some changes and we showed good fighting spirit.”
Meanwhile, this year’s Suzuki Cup could see some breakout performances from a slew of newcomers for the Azkals.
Eriksson named six players who made Suzuki Cup debuts with most of them expected to rise to the challenge as the tournament overlaps with the Fifa international window.
“I think we have depth at almost every position,” said consultant Scott Cooper. “There’s been a lot of competition in the squad and it can only help us improve especially with a big challenge in front of the team.”
Aside from Strauss, other newcomers were Curt Dizon, Stephan Palla, Joven Bedic and Adam Reed.
Dizon and Bedic are capable of delivering even off the bench.
Palla has plenty of experience playing in Europe but has been in and out of the squad due to injuries.
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