By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine men’s national football team has to go through the eye of the needle to reach the final of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup after it fell to Vietnam, 2-1, in the first leg of their semifinals at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City on Sunday.
Failing to defend homecourt, the Philippine Azkals now have to win by at least 2-nil when they go to Hanoi and play The Golden Dragons in four days’ time if they are to barge into the championship of the biennial regional tournament.
Vietnam did not waste much time to get on the scoreboard with Nguyen Anh Duc giving the visiting side the early 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.
It tried to add on to it but the Philippine defense would hold its own for the rest of the opening half.
The Azkals made a last-ditch effort to level the count before the halftime break and was rewarded accordingly with Patrick Reichelt converting a goal off a pass from captain Phil Younghusband inside the three minutes added time in the first half of the contest.
Just like in the opening half, Vietnam would strike early as Phan Van Duc scored just three minutes into the restart.
The Azkals tried to get back the goal they gave but The Golden Dragons would continue to frustrate them even as Vietnam had its chances to end up with a bigger lead but could not complete them.
Four minutes were added after regulation but no Philippine comeback was to come as it slumped to the defeat.
“I think we played well. It’s just that we gave up two goals quite easily. But there is still the away game, so let’s see,” said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson after the game.
The second leg of the semifinals of Vietnan and the Philippines is on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.