‘Tactically disciplined’ Azkals overpower Qataris
DOHA – Attacking fluidly and compact defensively, the Philippine Azkals ripped Qatar first division club Al Ahli to shreds, 3-1, Monday night in the second tuneup match of their Middle East training camp here.
Playing some of their finest football since coach Michael Weiss took over last year, the Azkals systematically broke down the proud Qatari club en route to the lopsided victory.
Looking to make up for a 0-3 humbling to Uzbekistan Saturday night, the Filipinos counter-attacked with precise devastation to the delight of some 8,000 Filipinos who braved the cold weather at the Al Ahli Sports Club Stadium.
Phil Younghusband scored two goals, sandwiching a strike from Denis Wolf as the Azkals showed better movement and battling qualities against a team that also used the match as a testimonial for general manager and former national team goalkeeper Hussain Al-Ammri, who played on goal for the first eight minutes.
Angel Guirado had a penalty that hit the post late in the second half, but the Azkals’ backline, boosted by the arrival of Ray Jonsson, proved resolute to keep Al-Ahli at bay.
Marwin Angeles also sparkled in his second start for the senior side, spraying incisive passes and stifling several attacks, while defender Jason Sabio, Carli de Murga and Juan Luis Guirado produced a solid display on defense.
“We made the right decisions, stayed disciplined and organized,” said James Younghusband, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong.
“It’s a good response from the first game (against Uzbekistan) on the way we should be playing.”
“We made good adjustments and it showed in this game,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “The preparations (for the AFC Challenge Cup) are moving in the right direction.”
Weiss said a more disciplined side showed up against Al Ahli, even as he called for more improvement in finishing.
“It was clear proof that the tactical discipline was there because we agreed that we had to drop deeper on defense,” said Weiss. “This game should have been 4-1. In the big matches, we might not get alot of chances so its important that we concentrate on finishing.”
Weiss paid tribute to Angeles and Sabio, whom he said has been one of positive surprises in the camp.
“His being resilient and being strong is important. We have better quality defensively and above all a very good spirit in the group. They are all pulling for each other.”
Al Ahli used 30 players with only eight of of its regulars but French coach Simondi Bernard did not take the gloss out of the Azkals’ comprehensive win.
“The Philippines is a very strong team,” the well-traveled coach, who had stints with the national teams of Benin and Burkina Faso and the Qatar Olympic team, said.
“The team has quality. Physically, the players are very strong, but the teamwork is also very good. I can see alot of potential.”
Aided by a mistake from Al-Ammri, who gathered a backpass, Phil Younghusband opened the scoring from an indirect free kick inside the box.
Wolf completed a swift counter-attack by following up James Younghusband’s saved effort to put the Azkals, 2-nil up at halftime.
Al Ahli controlled the early exchanges in the second half, but the Azkals struck again with Roland Muller’s punt finding Younghusband, who slotted home with a composed finish in the 53rd minute.
Serginho, a Brazilian trying out for Al Ahli, pulled a goal back for the Qatari club in the 57th minute. Still, it was the Azkals who were creating the more dangerous chances on the counter with the Younghusband squandering chances after fine buildup plays.
The Azkals wrap up their Middle East camp with a match against the Australian Under-23 Team on Thursday in Dubai.