Monday, March 12, 2012

Azkals takes on Tajikistan

(This is the draft of my report for Sun.Star Cebu on March 13)
AFTER upending former champion India, the Philippine national team will take on another former champion, Tajikistan, in its final group match of Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Nepal.

The Philippines beat 2008 champion India late Sunday and is now level with Tajikistan, the 2006 champion, at second place in the group. North Korea is first with six points after beating Tajikistan, 2-0, also last Sunday.

A draw between the Philippines and Tajikistan will send the match to penalty shoot-out to determine the second qualifier in the group as the two teams are tied on goal difference and goals scored—the usual tie breaker in a group stage.

The Philippines, which lost to North Korea in the opener, controlled most of the action against India and Phil Younghusband got the first goal, collecting a header from brother James in the 11th minute.  Phil had two more attempts in the first half but one hit high from inside the box, while keeper Karanjit Singh had a foot save on the other.

In the second half, the Loyola Meralco Sparks striker struck again, using a beautiful give-and-go to his brother James before curling it past Singh in the 74th minute.

The Azkals tried to push for a third goal, so they would need only a draw against Tajikistan to advance but the Indian defense managed to hold.

Though it was the team’s best showing so far, coach Michael Weiss said he is confident the team can still play better.

“I am happy with the three points which kept us alive in the tournament but I was not entirely happy with the way we played today,” Weiss told The AFC’s website. 

Meanwhile, Palami said they are planning to tweak the starting lineup against Tajikistan, a team the Philippines held to a 0-0 draw during the 2008 qualifiers in Iloilo City.

Palami said they are planning to field the same back four—Roy JOnsson, Rob Gier, Jayson Sabio and Carli de Murga--James Younghusband, Marwin
Angles, Juani and Angel Guirado and Paul Mulders at midfield and Phil Younghusband upfront.Neil Etheridge will still start at goal.

However, Palami said, today’s starters will be finalized after their practice yesterday.

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