Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Philippines settles for a draw

THE Philippines conceded an injury-time goal to settle for a 1-1 draw against Suzuki Cup reigning champion Malaysia in a friendly match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium last night.

Against the reigning champions who beat Indonesia, the team that booted out the Philippines in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the home side started strongly and had the visitors on the defensive for most of the first half.

After Carli de Murga blocked a shot in the 4th minute, it was all Azkals in the early part of the first half and the partnership between new recruit Dennis Wolf and Phil and James Younghusband provided a few headaches to the visitors.  Wolf shot wide in the fifth minute and Phil got stopped by the keeper from point-blank range in the 11th.

The Philippines had the defending champion backpedaling early in the first half and it took a back pass from Roy Jonsson for Neil Etheridge to get his first touch.  In the 23rd Phil had another shot go high and in the counter, Etheridge got his first save.

Phil had another shot saved in the 25th and two minutes later, a header by Wolf was saved.

Malaysia responded with two quick attempts in the 27th and 29th that were just off target, while Angel Guirado’s header ricocheted off a defender in the 30th.

In the 33rd minute, Wolf finally scored.

Showing his powerful upper body strength, Jason Sabio hurled his throw in straight to the box and Wolf headed in the ball to the lower left corner, sending the crowd to pandemonium.

Malaysia had a perfect chance to equalize as Etheridge mishandled a freekick but fortunately Malaysia failed to take advantage.

After the half time, which saw Pinoy and Barcelona legend Paulino Alcantara getting honored, the visitors showed they were intent in getting into the match, forcing Etheridge to a 51st minute save.

Angel Guirado had the best chances in the second half, hitting the bar in the 65th and his overhead kick getting collected by the keeper in the 66th.

As the Azkals kept pushing forward, Malaysia finally found an opening in the 90th minute and Ahmad Shakar Mo Ali got past Etheridge for the equalizer.

After the friendly, the Philippines will next focus on their next tournament, the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in two weeks.

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