Fair Play: We were lucky to get that draw
HAPITA oy! Lapit na gid! Almost! Take your pick, I think that was the expression most of the fans had in that 0-0 draw with Singapore, in our first home game of the Suzuki Cup.
And I'm not only talking about the rare times we had a shot because Singapore got us beat. David Bennet, Aleksander Duric and Khairul Amri getting their chances inside or just outside the box. But thanks to Ed Sacapano, who had another shutout again, we got through.
Our defense, too, wasn't its usual self, while our midfield, again disappeared in the first half.
Duric even had a free header from almost the same spot that he scored in that 1-1 draw against us in the 2010 Suzuki Cup group stage.
And on the offensive end, well, we really didn't have any, especially in the first half and the closest we got to threatening Singapore was that half-chance from Phil Younghusband off a nifty pass by Angel Guirado.
It seemed we also left our passing game in Thailand and resorted to the long balls, which Coach Michael Weiss has said he hated.
Worse, there was one instant in the first half, when a defender's pass to a midfielder (Carli de Murga to Paul Mulders?) was off and the intended recipient just stood there, gesturing and complaining instead of chasing the ball as Singapore was brewing an attack. I’m not sure who that guilty midfielder was but I’m sure who he wasn’t. We were all saying, “Come on James, chase the ball,” when we realized, “It’s not James!”
There were also two or three times when the team had the ball in the sidelines, and they'd absentmindedly go out of bounds. What was that? Nerves? Tired legs? Lack of composure? We had a few free kicks, too, but I've seen better kicks taken by 12-year-olds than the ones we had last night, save perhaps for Paul Mulders'.
However, just like in previous games, we played a whole lot better in the second half and late in the game, there were a few, to borrow Bobby Inoferio's words, heart attack moments in both ends.
There was Juani Guirado, throwing his full body to stop a shot inside the box, and everytime I see a national player do that it really warms me because it means they really mean business when they say "we are going to give it all." (How do you say that in Spanish?"
We also flirted with an own goal, too, while on the other end, there was that play that for me, summed up the game. Phil got the ball, and with two defenders closing on him, Chieffy Caligdong had all the space in the world. However, Phil's pass was just two or three feet off, foiling what could have been a nice exclamation point.
However, make no mistake about it, despite the draw, the odds are still in our favor going into the second leg. A 1-1 draw will see us throw on an away goal as Singapore failed to score in our court, while of course, a win would be a nice way to settle things.
By the way, Jerry Lucena will be back for the second leg, and aside from tinkering with the lineup anew, I think the coaching staff will be answering this question,” If we won’t start Chieffy, what time should he come on?”
Last night, Chieffy got in with just over 10 minutes to go and I think that may be a tad too short a time for him.
By the way, one of my best moments last night—and I know young players shouldn’t emulate this—was Dennis Cagara’s yellow card. A Singaporean got touchy-feely with him and the guy who’s all muscle but is one of the fastest players showed he wasn’t too pleased with that.
Oh well, let’s see how the Azkals perform in the Lions’ den this Wednesday.