by Jonas Terrado
The Philippine Azkals gained a morale-boosting win before the AFF Suzuki Cup after defeating Kyrgyzstan, 1-0, Wednesday night in their international friendly match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Misagh Bahadoran supplied the only goal of the match which came in the 65th minute even as the Azkals defense prevented the visitors from finding the back of the net to erase the misery of losing last month’s friendlies against Bahrain and North Korea.
“We didn’t did much in the first half, then in the second half was great commitment from the players,” said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. “When you think of the last two games, this was a game not because of the system we played but also because of the players.”
“They were fighting, you could see that they’re not just jogging and acting. They were acting instead of reacting. This was the first time they did it.”
Bahadoran scored when he capitalized on a deflection by a Kyrgyzstan defender to fire a left-footed shot that virtually gave the Azkals their second win against the same team after the 2-1 victory last August in Bishkek.
The Azkals still have some minor kinks to fix before the Suzuki Cup opens on Nov. 19 with a match against Singapore at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan. The Filipinos are also grouped against defending champion Thailand and Indonesia.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami said they are working on the availability of European-based players Daisuke Sato and Mike Ott, striker Javi Patino who has some contractual obligations with Chinese club Henan Jianye, and United Football League MVP Pika Minegishi, the Fil-Japanese midfielder whose Philippine passport is being finalized.