By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign of the Philippine men’s national football team got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over Singapore in its tournament opener on Tuesday night at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
Playing under new coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, the Azkals did not disappoint in their tournament debut as they showed a spirited fight, punctuated by a 78th-minute goal from Patrick Reichelt that turned out to be the marginal goal.
The match was tightly fought in the opening half with both teams having their chances but could not consummate them, resulting in a nil-nil score at the break.
In the second half, the Azkals came out more aggressive, taking the fight to Singapore and in the process found themselves in solid scoring opportunities.
Their effort eventually paid dividends in the 78th minute when Mr. Reichelt converted a pass from captain Phil Younghusband, going through traffic and puncturing the goal, sending the hometown crowd to celebration.
Singapore tried to get back the goal for the remainder of regulation and in the added five minutes and had its chances, but the Philippine defense would hold its own to preserve the win and earn the three points that go with it.
“We got the three points but it was not an easy game. Singapore has very good players and they played very direct. It’s very difficult to play against them but I think we had a very good game technically and we had good fighting spirit and I’m very happy for the whole country and our team,” said Mr. Eriksson after their win.
For game hero Reichelt, the win was a good start for them and he was very happy to have scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
“We had problems in the beginning but it was awesome to play at home here in Panaad and for me to score a goal was very fulfilling and it’s a good start for us in the Suzuki Cup,” the Ceres-Negros player said.
Next for the Azkals is a meeting with Timor-Liste on Nov. 17 in Malaysia.