Reality check: UFL side stuns Azkals | Inquirer Sports
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Reality check: UFL side stuns Azkals

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 09:08 PM June 05, 2011

Photo by Fritz Dalida

MANILA— A friendly match against hastily formed UFL All-Star team turned out to be a cold reality check for the Philippine Azkals.

An injury-time goal by Sudanese striker Izo El-Habbib lifted the All-Stars to a thrilling 4-3 upset over the Azkals on Sunday night in a friendly match played before a crowd of 10,000 at the University of Makati pitch.

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The Azkals, after taking the lead through Chieffy Caligdong’s 10th minute opener, needed to muster two equalizing goals until El-Habbib, who plays for Global Smartmatic, struck a thunderous shot from a tight angle to break the nationals’ hearts.

Eric Dagroh, Kaya Cignal’s Ivorian striker, scored twice and Mark Hartmann, the prolific Fil-British attacker for the Loyola Meralco Sparks, added another goal for the UFL All-Stars, who thoroughly exposed gaps on the Azkals defense.

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“I’m a little disappointed,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss. “Its an indication that we have to improve. We lost a match that we shouldn’t have lost.”

The Azkals are preparing for the 2014 Fifa World Cup Qualifying first-round home-and-away against Sri Lanka on June 29 and July 3.

Simon Greatwich equalized for the Azkals with a follow up on James Younghusband’s saved header in the 62nd minute, before substitute Ian Araneta tied the match for the last time in the 84th minute by heading home a cross from Caligdong.

Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo and Jason Sabio—paired up at central defense for the first time since the 3-0 win over Bangladesh in the AFC Challenge Cup—committed costly errors that Dagroh was quick to pounce on.

Borromeo was dispossesed by El-Habbib at a dangerous area and Dagroh turned Sabio for a cool finish in the 41st minute, evening the match at 1-1 at halftime.

Hartmann’s curling free kick from just outside the box sailed into the top corner to give UFL a 2-1 lead, after Sabio, hobbled by a shin injury, fouled Dagroh.

Another missed clearance by Borromeo handed Dagroh another opening in the 75th minute and the Ivorian made no mistake slotting the ball past Etheridge.

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“Some players in the defensive line didn’t have their best day,” Weiss said. “It may sound ridiculous but I think we clearly dominated the match.”

The match, a season-ending showcase of the league, also turned out to be a tribute for retiring national player Yanti Barsales, who captained the Azkals in the first 15 minutes, before he was substituted by newcomer Nathaniel Burkey, a Fil-Am striker.

The Philippine Team that won against then defending champion Malaysia in the Southeast Asian Games in 1991 was also honored at half-time.

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TAGS: Aly Borromeo, Azkals, Chieffy Caligdong, Eric Dagroh, Football, Izo El Habbib, James Younghusband, Jason Sabio, Mark Hartmann, Michael Weiss, Neil Etheridge, Philippines, Simon Greatwich, Sports, UFL, UFL All-Star
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