Saturday, September 29, 2012

"We are the champions!"

THREE goals from three different players plus a late game heroics by gutsy Ed Sacapaño lifted the Philippines to a 3-1 win over Chinese Taipei in the Philippine Peace Cup at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex and its first ever football title in 99 years.

The last time the Philippines won a title was in 1913, when it beat China in the Far Eastern Games. China and the Philippines were the only participants in that tournament.
“I’m glad to have been part of this historic moment, end of a 99-year-old drought, first time to beat Chinese Taipei.  We must be making the right moves, I suppose?” Team manager Dan Palami, who took over the national squad in 2010, said in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu
Palami missed the game as he had to fly to Tacloban for an important family affair.

And make the right moves, the Azkals did in the first half.

Denis Wolf, who had a hat trick against Macau, got the first real chance with a one-two from OJ Porteria only to get stopped by a defender.

A minute later, the Filipino-German who has signed up for Global FC capitalized, scoring on a rebound from a corner kick for a 1-0 lead.

In the 20th, the Azkals pushed again but the attack resulted to an easy pick-up by Chinese Taipe’s keeper and in the 25th, Sacapaño was forced for a punch to clear a cross.

In the 33rd, the young Porteria, starting for the first time, attacked from left flank and found Wolf but a weak shot resulted to an easy save.

Two minutes in team captain Chieffy Caligdong stepped in and the lefty made it 2-0 with a powerful right shot from the top of the box before taking off his shirt in celebration to reveal the words, “Jesus loves us.”

Porteria seemed to have made it 4-0 minutes later but he was called for an offside.  But in the 42nd, there was no denying the wily and fast Kaya FC acquisition as he intercepted a square pass and beat the Chinese keeper on a one-on-one.

Chinese Taipe got one back in the 51st minute and things turned ugly when Chinese Taipei officials complained when Demetrius Omphroy’s tackle inside the box wasn’t called for a penalty.

The Chinese Taipei head of delegation, who was sent out, refused to leave the bench, leading to the delay. 

The visitors got the penalty they wanted in the 94th minute, from a silly challenge by Jason de Jong but Sacapaño, a member of the national squad since 2004, rose to the occasion, to deny the penalty.

The tournament is just part of the Azkals preparation for the Challenge Cup and Palami said it shouldn’t stop there.

“But we should rest on this achievement, this is but one of the steps, albeit a huge one, in our journey for greater glory in the country,” he said.

That greater glory begins with the Suzuki Cup in November, where the Philippines is grouped with powerhouse Thailand, Vietnam and the top qualifier.

Palami also thanked all the fans who believed in the team, which has faced a string of controversy lately because of the non-inclusion of Phil and James Younghusband.

“Tomorrow, and maybe the day after, we savor this.  But the day after that, we go back to our preparations,” he said. “I want to thank all those who believed and continue to believe in the Azkals.” ML

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