PH Azkals redeem selves at home, dump Brunei in AFF Cup
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Azkals produced plenty of firsts in winning their home debut in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup on Friday going into a pair of tough battles in the latter part of the group stage.
A 5-1 thrashing of Brunei before a small-yet-energetic crowd at Rizal Memorial Stadium kept the Azkals’ hopes of sneaking a semifinals berth in Southeast Asia’s premier football competition.
But for that to be fulfilled, coach Josep Ferre’s side will have to get much-needed results against the finalists of the previous AFF tournament, with defending champion Thailand first on the slate on December 26 on the road.
Returning to Rizal Memorial won’t happen until January 2 when it hosts Indonesia, runner-up to Thailand in the pandemic-delayed 2020 edition held under a bubble setup last year in Singapore.
Kenshiro Daniels found the mark anew for the Azkals with an opening goal that set up a redeeming result after falling 3-2 to Cambodia last Tuesday in Phnom Penh.
Sandro Reyes, who was once with the FC Barcelona youth academy before taking his act on the domestic scene, along with fellow Kaya-Iloilo standout Jhan-Jhan Melliza produced their first international goals during the Azkals triumph.
Twenty-year-old Jens Rasmussen, who came off the bench to start the second half, scored twice to complete the Philippines’ successful bid in getting the maximum three points.
Razimie Ramili scored a consolation goal for Brunei in the 70th minute, preventing goalkeeper Julian Schwarzer, son of former English Premier League veteran Mark Schwarzer, from producing a clean sheet in just his second cap.