Fearless Azkals primed for another Hanoi miracle
BACOLOD CITY—There’s no shortage in belief and confidence from the Philippines even after a 1-2 setback to Vietnam in the first leg of their AFF (Asean Football Federation) Suzuki Cup semifinal tie.
The Azkals were left undone by a combination of poor defending and Vietnam’s incisiveness as they conceded a goal in each half in Sunday’s match played before a crowd of 5,500 at Panaad Stadium here.
But as the Azkals head to Hanoi for the second leg this Thursday, they are taking encouragement from the fact that they were the first team in the tournament that breached the Vietnam goal with Patrick Reichelt’s unstoppable close-range strike tying the match at halftime.
Still, coach Sven Goran Eriksson’s men acknowledge the enormity of the task at hand, especially with their opponents scoring two away goals, although the players are taking inspiration from the feat of the 2010 team that stunned Vietnam, 2-0, at My Dinh Stadium.
“Time to make a new miracle in Hanoi,” declared goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard, who was caught stranded when Nguyen Anh Duc opened the scoring in the 12th minute for the Vietnamese side.
Falkesgaard could do little to stop Phan Van Duc’s strike three minutes into the second half as the nippy Vietnam striker beat the offside trap, before beating the Azkals goalkeeper in a one on one opportunity.
The Azkals now have to pull off at least a 2-0 win in the Vietnamese capital to reach the finals for the first time.
Captain Phil Younghusband believes they are capable of hammering out the feat.
“We’ve seen bigger miracles in football,” said Younghusband. “It means that we now need to go for things in the second game and I think that will suit us better knowing that we have to go and score rather than sitting back.”
“They’re a young team and I think we showed today that we can get at them and create chances and if we can stop them from scoring, we’ve got a chance so for me I think it’s all to play for—it’s a one-goal difference and I think we still have a chance.”
The Azkals’ all-time leading scorer believes the way Vietnam was set up defensively made it difficult for them to break down the visiting side.
But their lone goal, which came off a quick combination from Stephan Schrock, Jovin Bedic and a quality cross from Younghusband on the left, teed up Reichelt’s impressive finish.
“They get so many bodies behind the ball that they’re difficult to break down and maybe if we didn’t score, we would’ve gone into the next game thinking it’s a bigger challenge but knowing that we can score against them gives us confidence going into the second leg.”
Eriksson said they will play without fear in Hanoi.
“The result was a pity because we scored a goal (by Reichelt) and we had some (good) occasions (to score more),” said the Swede. “But (there are) still 90 minutes to go. We’ll go there (in Vietnam) to try (to win).”
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