PHNOM PENH – The second meeting in three years between the Philippines and Cambodia ended the same way like it was the first time: A scoreless draw.Ranged against a team that needed to go through qualifying for the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals were unlucky not to grab a late-winner as they continued their buildup here at the National Olympic Stadium.
Phil Younghusband bungled an effort from eight yards in the eighth minute, Jason Sabio shook the crossbar with a header, before Patrick Riechelt was denied by the post six minutes from time as Cambodia survived a late Philippine onslaught under heavy downpour.
Only the outcome was similar to the last meeting between the two sides as the Azkals dictated the play this time, particularly in the second half where they carved out chance after chance despite far from ideal pitch conditions.
The Azkals got a boost earlier in the day when the penalties meted on coach Michael Weiss, manager Dan Palami and James Younghusband were suspended following an appeal.
The reprieve meant the Azkals fielded a strong, experienced side with Jerry Lucena, Paul Mulders and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge in the starting eleven along with Phil Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong, Carli de Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier and Under-23 standouts Jeff Christiaens and Marwin Angeles.
Cheered on by a buoyant crowd, Cambodia threatened early with quick passing and good movement off the ball. The final ball was missing though and the Azkals started to get into the game late in the first half.
Though Cambodia had a couple of balls into the box in the first five minutes, it was the Azkals who created the first clear chance.
James Younghusband and Paul Mulders linked up at the right flank, before the Fil-Dutch sent the ball to an unmarked Phil Younghusband who sent his effort just wide.
Cambodia constantly threatened on the counter with Rob Gier and Carli De Murga needing to come away with tackles inside the box to prevent a shot on goal.
Weiss sent in Reichelt for Lucena at halftime and Jason de Jong for Gier. Almost immediately Riechelt made his mark on the game, linking up with Phil Younghusband, before skipping past a couple of defenders only to unleash a cross beyond Caligdong.
Reichelt was lively on the right and was at it again, using a stepover to create space only to shoot low to the Cambodian keeper Su Yati.
Etheridge was steady for most of the game, but Cambodia almost cashed in on his miskick in the 63rd minute.
On the other end, Denis Wolf, who came on as a substitute in the 65th minute, had a left footed effort from the area saved in the 73rd minute.
Wolf was combining well with Mulders and another run found him on the left only for his side-footed shot from a tight angle find the side netting.
The Azkals finished the game strongly on attack with Riechelt nearly finishing off a fine counter that started with Etheridge finding another substitute Misagh Bahadoran on the left. Bahadoran spotted Reichelt and the Fil-German beat three defenders only to be denied by the post.
The match is the first of a three-country Southeast Asian swing of the team preparing for the Suzuki Cup in Bangkok in November.
The Azkals have been grouped with powerhouses Thailand and Vietnam in the tournament, along with the top team of the qualifiers.