By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
HAVE its back against the wall in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, the Philippine men’s national football team is looking to make things happen in the second leg of its semifinals with Vietnam later this week — its last chance to book a spot in the final of the biennial regional tournament.
Bowed to The Golden Stars, 2-1, in the first leg of their semifinal matchup on Sunday at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City, the Philippine Azkals need to dig deep and win by at least 2-nil in the second leg on Thursday, Dec. 6, in Hanoi.
It is a situation that is very daunting at the onset considering how Vietnam has been solid in the tournament to date, having yet to drop a match.
But the Azkals are not being down on themselves, believing that they still have a chance to accomplish the job.
“Vietnam are the favorites before this game, and now they’re even bigger. I think we did okay today. We still have 90 minutes to go so we’ll see,” said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson following their defeat in the first leg, which was witnessed by 5,000-plus people at Panaad.
Vietnam did not waste much time to get on the scoreboard in the first leg 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 Stars 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.
For Mr. Reichelt, while they came in prepared for the match, their on-court effort still left much to be desired, something they have to address if they are to move forward in the tournament.
“It was a disappointment. This is our third time in the Suzuki Cup semifinal, I don’t want to go out of the semifinal for the third time. I think we prepared well but the attitude was missing for us today,” said Mr. Reichelt during a fiery postgame interview.
The second leg of the semifinals between Vietnam and the Philippines will be played at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.