By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
A KEY Group B match in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup is to take place today in Bacolod City as the Philippine national men’s football team takes on Thailand in a battle of unbeaten teams in the grouping.
Set for 7:30 p.m. at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium, both the Philippine Azkals and Thailand are hoping to sustain their unblemished start to the tournament and provide further wind to their assault to advance to the next round of the regional football joust.
As of this writing though there is still no word if the organizers would suspend the match amid anticipation of inclement weather in Bacolod brought about by Typhoon Samuel which is currently affecting parts of the Visayas and Mindanao.
Thailand and the Philippines, sporting identical 2-0 records, are coming off contrasting wins in their previous matches on Nov. 17 with the former dominating Indonesia, 4-2, and the latter given a scare by Timor-Leste, 3-2.
The Thais fell behind a goal early in the opening half but racked up fourth straight goals after to turn the tables on Indonesia en route to the victory.
The Philippines, meanwhile, had it strong to start the match against Timor-Leste
Philippine captain Phil Younghusband got the scoring going for the Azkals in the 27th minute.
It was the 52nd international goal for Mr. Younghusband in his 101st cap for the team.
Martin Steuble followed it up with another goal six minutes later as he blasted a shot to make it 2-nil for the Philippines heading into the halftime break.
In the second half, Carli de Murga made it 3-0 for the Azkals in the 68th minute as he was left unmarked following a Kevin Ingreso free kick.
Just when everybody thought the Philippines was on its way to an easy win, Timor-Leste sprung up a surprise.
In a span of two minutes, from the 73rd to 75th minute, it would score back-to-back goals to make a game out of it.
But that was the closest Timor-Leste would come as the Azkals reestablished their footing to hold on and preserve the victory.
Needing to dig deep to hack out a win against Timor-Leste, the Azkals said they have to do better as such effort would not make the cut against defending champion Thailand today.
“Of course we need to look back in this game and get some things straightened. It was not good enough, the players know it. It doesn’t feel like a victory right now because the way we played,” Azkals goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard was quoted as saying by the AFF Suzuki Cup Web site after their last game.
“Up with three goals, it should be a secured win easily and it wasn’t and now we have to focus on Thailand. We are going to meet an opponent that has the quality to make it hard for us and we need to prepare for that and be better in situations like this,” he added.
In the Suzuki Cup, the top two teams from each group at the end of the classification round advance to the crossover semifinals.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo