Karl Decena, InterAKTV
The Philippine national men’s football team edged Myanmar, 1-0, to win its first match of the year Wednesday at the Thuwanna Youth Training Center Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
Midfielder OJ Porteria scored the winning goal at the 78th minute for the Azkals, who were in action for the first time since the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup last year. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge also made several saves that made up for the Filipinos’ lackluster start.
In the first half, the Azkals struggled to put its clamps on Myanmar, which found chances to score early. But Etheridge stood his ground against Myanmar’s barrage of shots to keep the Filipinos in the match.
Myanmar heated up after the break, finding a chance to score at the 58th minute, which was saved again by Etheridge.
The Azkals finally scored moments after, as Porteria took advantage of free space from the left flank and buried a shot from outside the box which hit the back of the net for the match’s first goal.
Myanmar tried to score the equalizer late in the match, but the Azkals prevented the hosts from forcing a draw.
With the result, the Azkals won for the second straight time against Myanmar, which they defeated, 2-nil, in the Suzuki Cup last year. That victory paved the Philippines’ entry to the semifinals of the tournament.
The match is part of the Azkals’ preparations for the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifiers in Manila in March, where they look to win their group to advance to the tournament proper in Maldives next year.