TASHKENT—It was supposed to be OJ Porteria’s opportunity to finally come out of the shadows of his more illustrious teammates.
Instead, the night ended prematurely for the young midfielder, his stint cut short by a harsh red card that marred the Philippine Azkals’ 0-1 defeat to powerhouse Uzbekistan in their World Cup Qualifying clash at Bunyodkor Stadium here.
Porteria who was playing in a position usually assigned to either Stephan Schrock or Phil Younghusband got sent off in the ninth minute for a late challenge on defender Igor Kremits.
“I wasn’t nervous but it happened so fast,” Porteria said of the incident. “Kiki (Patrick Reichelt) played the ball to me and I couldn’t reach the ball. The defender got the ball ahead of me and I caught him. I didn’t think it was a red card.”
Schrock and Younghusband were both sidelined by injuries, and coach Thomas Dooley felt Porteria who is fine form for club Kaya was the logical choice to fill the position.
“Yesterday was unfortunate for me,” said Porteria. “I just have to keep my chin up and be professional about the situation and grab the next chance to prove myself.
Porteria added: “Coach (Thomas Dooley) thought it was also a harsh call. He thought tackles before the one I had may have led the ref to the decision.”
Porteria, who spent most of the game watching from the VIP box, said he was proud of the way his teammates fought with a man disadvantage for the rest of the match.
“The boys played very well despite what happened,” he said. “I’m very proud of the guys especially Neil. Neil was unbelievable, our backline was just diving for balls, doing everything they can but unfortunately, we lost.”
Porteria, who will serve a suspension for the clash against North Korea on Tuesday, said the Azkals can take a lot of positives from their performance here.