By Mike T. Limpag
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
THE Philippine Azkals closed out their year with a bang, routing an out-matched Nepal, 4-0, in a friendly at the Rizal Memorial Stadium last Tuesday night.
It was the team’s third shut-out win in four home games this year, and their second 4-0 win after routing Sri Lanka by the same score in their home game in the first round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
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But Michael Weiss, who took over as head coach of the team just last January, felt it could have been more.
“This is the way we wanted to play. Not to be arrogant but 4-0 is a mild result,” Weiss told a national daily.
And he was right.
Ian Araneta had two golden opportunities to score and missed, while Chieffy Caligdong also bungled a shot on open goal.
Phil Younghusband, who hasn’t scored on open play since the Sri Lanka game, ended his slump in the 16th with a wonderful strike from right flank and brother James scored from 22 yards in the 30th.
Both said they were dedicating their goals and the win to their mother who passed away suddenly last month.
Phil added his 18th international goal in the second half, while substitute Matt Hartman banged in the final goal in the 89th off a feed from Phil.
Nepal, which at No. 135 is ranked higher than Singapore (136) and the Philippines (166), only had one real chance at goal in the second half but Fulham No. 2 keeper Neil Etheridge was up to the task, tapping out a shot in the 61st minute.
The win, the Philippines’ best since its 7-0 win over East Timor in 2007 in Bacolod, closes out a year that began with a 2-0 shutout over Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Aside from the Younghusbands, it was also a chance for the home fans to see Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena and Paul Mulders, who showed wonderful ball control, in a home match.
The three are expected to figure prominently when the team competes in the AFC Challenge Cup next year in Nepal.
Now that the senior team’s campaign in 2011 has ended, coach Michael Weiss and Dan Palami are expected to turn their attention to the Under 23 team, which will see action in the Southeast Asian Games in November in Indonesia.
It is the first time the Philippines will be fielding a SEA Games team since hosting the meet in 2005.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 13, 2011.