Jaelle Nevin Reyes MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Football Team notched a win over defending United Football League (UFL) champs Global FC, 3-1, in an exhibition match at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Wednesday, August 27.
The exhibition match, which was organized free to the public as a tuneup for the upcoming Peace Cup, was part of a fan day that began with a concert for the supporters of the team.
In the opening minutes of the first half, the tempo of the game was in sharp contrast of the festive mood in the stadium as both squads started the game slow.
However, the Azkals came to life after an offensive front spearheaded by veteran striker Phil Younghusband in the 5th minute but the formidable defense of the UFL champs held their fort.
Not backing down, Izo Elhabib from the Global-side took a shot off a free kick at the goal of Patrick Deyto but his shot did not penetrate to the back of the net.
In the 24th minute, P. Younghusband scored the opening goal for the national squad following a pass from Nate Burkey who received the ball off a back-line interception by Daisuke Sato.
Several goal-to-goal assaults were sent by the opposing squads going into the half but both teams successfully manned their posts as no additional goals were sank before the opening half expired.
Eighteen minutes into the second half, veteran Carli De Murga extended the lead for the Azkals after a striking shot to defeat the strong defense of Global FC goalie Roland Sadia.
On the other side of the pitch, Global’s Paolo Bugas sent a cross deep inside the Azkals’ penalty box but Jerry Barbaso’s header towards the goal was saved.
Eager to extend the lead for the national team, Patrick Reichelt broke loose from his defender via a through pass from the Azkals midfield but Sadia clinched on to his foot inside the box resulting into an automatic penalty.
Reichelt sank the penalty shot to increase the lead of the Azkals, 3-0.
A few minutes before the final whistle, a sneaky outbreak from Global FC was converted into a goal as the young Mark Winhoffer beat Deyto to reduce the lead to 3-1.
According to Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley, they utilized an experimental 3-5-2 formation for the first half but changed it to the normal 4-4-2 later in the second half.
“For the first half, we tried a new system. We never trained [for] it but we just want to play it because that’s what you do in those kinds of games. It didn’t work out so we switched the second half into a different system so our game became much better.”
“There were differences between some of the fitness of the players but overall it looks like they are pretty fit,” Dooley added.
Consequently, team captian Rob Gier, who just got back with the team 2 days ago, stressed that the game is a suitable preparation for the team’s crusade in the Peace Cup in September.
“It’s been great. Its been great to back with the guys after such a long break [the game] was nice to prepare us for the Peace Cup,”
Gier added that the team would be facing tough competitors in the upcoming Peace Cup, which begins September 3. AFC Challenge Cup champions Palestine, plus Chinese Taipei and Myanmar.
“I think we have three very tough games. We’ll obviously be playing Chinese Taipei who beat us last year. Myanmar who have now got a very good manager they are gonna be very dangerous. Palestine who beat us in the final a few months ago. It’s gonna be really tough,” he said. - Rappler.com