Azkals-Schröck-vs-Malaysia

Azkals U22 get monumental 1-0 win against Malaysia

The Philippine Azkals U22, against the odds, produced a gritty 1-0 win in their third group stage match against Malaysia to keep their hopes of reaching the semifinals alive in the 30th Southeast Asian Games held in Rizal Stadium last November 29, 2019.

Right from the start, the Philippines tried to push forward as evidenced by a freekick awarded within the first minute of the match when Stephan SchrΓΆck was fouled.

The ensuing freekick led to a corner kick for the hosts, but the attempted buildup was broken down successfully by the Malaysian defense.

Moments followed with both teams trading possessions and threatening runs but neither were able to produce a gilt-edged chance.

In the 18th minute Azkals defender Mar Diano seemed to have suffered a knock but after undergoing initial treatment, was able to continue as the match saw sporadic action until Rontini’s 21st minute effort from range that was comfortably dealt with by Malaysia’s net-minder Muhammad Nadzli.

A freekick by Malaysia in the 23rd minute by Adam Nor Azlin flew well on-target but Philippines’ goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus was equal to it.

As the match went nearer the half-hour mark, team captain SchrΓΆck tried to intiate some half-chances but the opening goal was hard to come by with Harimau Malaya having some promising glimpses as well.

But come the 30th minute, just as the Philippines seem to have gotten the slight upper-hand, Malaysia’s Muhammad Abdul Razak was able to unleash an effort from an angle that flew just wide of the far post.

In the 38th minute, another promising spell went the Azkals’ way with Dylan de Bruycker’s shot from outside the box being blocked by a Malaysian defender for a corner kick but the ensuing play left the hosts empty handed.

Malaysia may have a good chance to score via a 40th minute counterattack but they weren’t able to take advantage as the undermanned defense of the Philippines was able to thwart the buildup.

The final minutes of the first half had both sets of fans at the edge of their seats as the match hung precariously in the balance with either of the two teams having the possibility poised to break the ice.

It could be something that the Azkals would rue in the play that followed in the first minute of injury time of the first half as a well-worked cross by SchrΓΆck was able to find towering forward Chima Uzoka but the headed attempt arched way over the bar.

A thrilling close to the first half unfolded with Malaysia handed a freekick in what served as the last kick of the first 45 minutes but the ball produced was far from promising as it flew out of bounds and both teams headed into the break with neither scoring a goal.

As the second half began, with Stephan SchrΓΆck unleashing an early shot that flew just wide.

In the 52nd minute, a corner kick saw a shooting chance when the ball bounced kindly in front of an Azkal outside the box but the attempt was blocked.

The hosts turned up the ante in the following minutes as they were able to get a few consecutive set-pieces with Malaysia forced to defend for the most part, but still the opening goal proved to be elusive.

As the hour mark arrived, the visitors came up with a threatening play as the ball glided into the danger zone but Pinthus was able to cushion the ball with the palm of his hands and under his control.

In the 66th minute, the Malaysians were able to get a shot on target as Muhammad Norhisham unleashing a low strike from distance but Pinthus once again was composed in dealing with the attempt.

But the breakthrough did arrive for the Azkals as a 73rd minute deceitful corner kick by Stephan SchrΓΆck, aided with the pressure applied by Amani Aguinaldo, found the back of the net.

The advantage seemed to have immediately turned Malaysia into life as two successive attempts within the 77th minute, though ending empty-handed, were worryingly enough for the Azkals backline.

Sure enough in the 80th minute the Malaysians pulled off probably one of their most promising shots but Muhammad Abdul Razak’s just flew marginally off target. But Malaysia still kept piling the pressure near the 90th minute mark by marauding the Azkals’ penalty box as the onus rested on their end to produce the crucial leveler.

But the equalizer proved to be elusive for the Harimau as the Philippines get a monumental win to keep its 2019 SEA Games campaign and hopes of surviving Group A alive and kicking.

The Philippine Azkals will next face Timor-Leste in their final group stage match on December 4 which will be hosted in BiΓ±an Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 4:00PM. Malaysia meanwhile will clash against Cambodia at the same schedule which will be held in Rizal Stadium.

Photo credit: Smile Eight Photography

Azkals Generic Ball

SEAG2019: Azkals U22 suffer first loss against Myanmar

Despite an equalizer late in the first half and a sustained pressure in most of the second, it wasn’t meant to be as the Philippine Azkals U22 suffer a 2-1 loss from a go-ahead goal in the 79th minute against Myanmar U22 in the Southeast Asian Games 2019 Group A men’s football encounter held in Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila last November 27.

The match began with the Philippines applying pressure against the Asian Lions even forcing a corner within the first five minutes of action.

Ceres-Negros talisman and national team captain Stephan SchrΓΆck has been lively in attack, initiating plays and supplying passes up front.

But Myanmar also showed some early signs of what they are capable of with glimpses of threatening speed on the counter.

The first clear chance of the match arrived for the hosts in the ninth minute when Gallantes saw his header go way over the crossbar off a feed from SchrΓΆck.

In the 13th minute, Myanmar demonstrated an almost moment of brilliance with midfielder Myat Kaung Khant unleashing a curler from the right edge of the box that only flashed wide of the far post.

The first quarter of an hour arrived with both sides settling well into the match with promising plays traded back and forth.

However the breakthrough did arrive for the lions in the 17th minute with forward Aung Kaung Mann capitalizing on the cleverly executed one-two pass that evaded the hosts’ defense and beat the arms of Azkals keeper Anthony Pinthus.

Philippines tried for a quick response, but the Burmese squad were able to hold on firmly onto their defensive tasks.

What followed is a spell of promising breaks in favor of Myanmar whose players were able to craft half-chances on a few occasions that raised some worry on the Filipino back-line.

Near the half-hour mark, Dennis Chung was able to exploit the right flank, earning his side a free-kick but Myanmar were not threatened in the ensuing set-piece.

After another chance arrived for the visitors a few moments after the half-hour, tried to push and build on a chance, to no avail as Myanmar once again almost successfully constructed another chance to increase their lead.

A brief stoppage followed when goalscorer Myat Kaung Khant suffered a knock from a corner-kick play, but the Burmese player turned out to be able to continue as play resumed.

It was all Myanmar at this point, as the Asian Lions found another gilt-edged opportunity in the 40th minute with a teasing low cross from the left side of the box that only failed to connect with a striker.

At around the 43rd minute, just as defender Edison Suerti was introduced, a rare golden opportunity arrived for the Azkals as Myanmar committed an uncharacteristically errant pass that saw the ball roll in front of the on-rushing, Chima Uzoka, but the forward took to much time to control the ball as the visitors were able to regroup and break down the possible opportunity.

The Philippines immediately made amends equalizing in the first minute of injury time as defensive midfielder Justin Baas unleashed a pile-driver inside the box off a feed from Dennis Chung from a well-timed cross initiated by mercurial midfielder Yrick Gallantes as both teams headed into the break all-square with one goal apiece.

After that equalizer, the Philippines immediately tried to build on the momentum after the restart by piling the pressure from the get-go.

In the 49th minute a Chima Uzoka seemed to have committed a costly miss by blasting SchrΓΆck’s well placed cross towards him high in the sky. But to the relief of the Filipino fans, the play has been ruled for offside.

Despite SchrΓΆck’s inspirational leadership on the attacking end, Myanmar suddenly sparked things up on the other side in the 51st minute with an on-rushing counter-attacking play but Dennis Chung busted his lungs to track back and chase the man with the ball that led to a timely intervention to snuff out the attack.

The Filipinos immediately tried to regain the momentum and sustain it as they continued to pile the pressure relentlessly on their opponents as the Burmese resorted to defend in numbers and hopeful balls upfield.

And just after the hour mark, the hosts unwavering efforts almost got rewarded as SchrΓΆck shimmied his way into Myanmar’s danger zone at the left, unleashing another sumptuous cross that just evaded Uzoka, but kindly bounced towards Baas’ path whose low drive just missed the far post.

But Myanmar produced a scare in the 63rd minute with what seemed a decent counterattack that beat the Azkals’ backline only for the linesman to raise for offside.

A few minutes of kind spell in favor of the Azkals continue to follow as it has been all the hosts who have been able to build chances upon chances save for the go-ahead goal as Myanmar finally got a free-kick in the 71st minute, but Pinthus was able to smother the ball after initially spilling it.

Stephan Schrock has been pulling the strings in several of the plays for the Philippines but a momentary lapse gave Myanmar a glimmer of an attacking chance with Aung Kaung Mann breaking away from Amani Aguinaldo only to see his chance denied by Pinthus.

Myanmar saw another chance came begging with pacy substitute striker Win Naing Tun denied but it just served as a premonition as he found the back of the net in the subsequent play in the 79th minute when he received a well-worked lay-over from Myat Kaung Khant as the visitors regained their control of the driver’s seat.

The conversion somehow changed the complexion of the match as the Azkals lost the pressure they were able to bring to the opposition a few moments ago as Myanmar suddenly seem to be on the ascendancy late in the game.

In the 90th minute Anthony Pinthus made a crucial stop to avoid the Azkals from suffering a two-goal deficit by denying a clear one-on-one chance for Myanmar.

A late freekick for the Philippines taken by SchrΓΆck was saved by Asian Lions’ keeper Sann Sat Naing as time eventually expired with Myanmar getting their first win of the campaign at the Azkals’ expense with a 2-1 scoreline.

Philippines U22 will next face an important match against six-time SEA Games gold medal winners, Malaysia on November 29, 2019 at 8:00PM also at the Rizal Memorial Stadium while Myanmar face Timor-Leste in an earlier 4:00PM kickoff also in the same venue

Photo credit: Philippine Football Federation

PilipinasWNFT-seagames2019-vs-myanmar

Precious point: Pilipinas WNFT shows promise in milestone draw vs nemesis

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team (Pilipinas WNFT) opened their 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign with a goalless draw against Myanmar last November 26, in BiΓ±an Football Stadium. Despite the stalemate, there was actually more to that match than just the result.

Here are some of the reasons why that one-point earned by the Philippines in the group stage proved to be critical, and a crucial outcome that could set them in a good position to reach the semifinals and contend for a medal.

Myanmar were a thorn, until now

At least for the past decade, probably in the entire history of their encounters at the senior level, Pilipinas WNFT has never defeated or even drawn with the Asian Lionesses, Myanmar.

As a matter of fact, the Burmese squad has proven superior with all previous matches since the 2010’s ending convincingly in their favor against the Filipinas with a 2-0 outcome way back during the 2011 AFF Championship serving as the closest margin of victory ever.

Also, the lionesses have been one of the major spoilers for the Philippine women’s past quests for a medal finish with the just recent 2019 AFF Championship proving just that as Myanmar beat the Philippines 3-0 in the battle for bronze.

Now in 2019 right in front of the Filipino home crowd, the Philippines finally earned their first point against the team that gave them probably one of their toughest and forgetful matches – a result that could serve as a possible turning point in the future encounters between these two sides.

Consistent, solid defense saved the day for the Philippines

What may be ‘the great equalizer’ for the Filipinas in this latest fixture is the much improved defensive discipline and resolve shown against their much daunted Burmese rivals.

Despite the slightly tentative midfield and attack in the first half, in terms of keeping possession and creating chances, the hosts’ defense held firm to frustrate Myanmar’s offensive waves as the visitors came up empty handed despite some promising midfield play in the first 45 minutes.

Come the second half, all the more that the Philippine backline rose to the occasion, with the entire squad showing more fluidity the defense not only held fast in delivering its main role but also became the starting point of several offensive moves as Coach Let Dimzon’s wards began to successfully probe what seemed to be initially an impenetrable Burmese wall.

Goalkeeper Inna Palacios not only pulled off some fine saves, but she also demonstrated great anticipation with some crucial interventions by running out of her line to get first a number of through balls that could have been the breakthrough for the opposition.

The backline composed of Mea Bernal, Hali Long, Dai Dolino and subsitute Chelo Hodges, has always been effectively on the alert, eventually negating Myanmar’s highly rated front-line duo of Yee Yee Oo and Win Theingi Tun while Claire Lim may have provided the best individual performance with her audacious long range efforts, two of which either forced a crucial save from the opposing keeper or hit the crossbar, contributing on the offensive end on top of her staple enforcer role.

Such was the level of effectivity that has been delivered by the Philippines’ defense that Myanmar’s best chance came not from their strikers, but from their creative attacking midfielder Khan Malar Tun, proving how the supposed superior opposition was pushed to its limits in order to carve out opportunities but eventually ended up empty-handed.

Halftime adjustments almost delivered a win

Whatever the initial concerns that the Philippines had in the first 45 minutes, most of those have been addressed in the second half and this is where Head Coach Marnelli ‘Let’ Dimzon’s tactical nous came into play.

As the tenth minute of the second half expired, the hosts started to be more settled in their midfield play, anchored by captain Patrice Impelido, showing more composure and industry in working the ball from the middle of the park.

The flanks became more utilized as well, and to much greater effect as Camille Rodriguez, Alisha Del Campo and Sara CastaΓ±eda were given more room to create either by supplying the services needed towards Sarina Bolden, Quinley Quezada, and Shela Cadag (later on) at front or crafting opportunities themselves.

But the turning point in the match may have been the introduction of Eva Madarang near the hour mark, who provided the much needed fresh legs and versatility by operating as a free radical in the entire right flank mainly as a winger, support striker (in a more pronounced three-pronged attack) or midfielder, with a few unfamiliar cameos as wing-back – helping out on the defensive end as demanded by the situation.

Though opportunities did come, the arrival of that much awaited breakthrough wasn’t meant to be, despite the Philippines knocking at Myanmar’s door on several occasions as the match neared its expiry en-route to a monumental draw.

A working unit waiting to succeed

With what has been demonstrated, Pilipinas WNFT now is in a very good position to survive Group A of the 2019 SEA Games. But there’s still another barrier to hurdle with a tricky match against Malaysia set to be the decider for the Filipinas’ progression to the semis.

Nevertheless, if the opener against one of the region’s most dangerous sides Myamar could serve as a very minute yet reliable reference in this campaign, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team maybe primed to finally get its first medal in the regional biennial meet that has eluded them for 34 years since that bronze medal finish in 1985.

And if they reach the podium, with finishing first a possibility, then what a way to celebrate our women’s competitive homecoming after a decade of football odyssey.

Photo credit: Philippine Women’s National Football Team

PilipinasWNFT-SEAG2019

Pilipinas Women’s Football Team kicks off SEAG2019 campaign

Coming off what could be considered as one of its most extensive preparations for a tournament after not playing a competitive match at home in a decade, The Philippine Women’s National Football Team, now begins its Southeast Asian Games 2019 campaign against one of the region’s powerhouses Myanmar tonight, November 26, in BiΓ±an Football Stadium.

The Philippine team has been drawn in Group A along with Myanmar and Malaysia, and with the current pool of competitors, the hosts – under the guidance of head coach Let Dimzon – have a high chance of getting to the semifinals/medal rounds.

Although there has been no official posting yet from the social media channels of the squad, based on some reliable posts, the Philippines are working on a 20-player roster that may be the final list that will compete in the biennial tournament.

[UPDATE: The Philippine Women’s Football Team just officially released their squad]

We reveal your πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­ team for the 30th #SEAGames2019 women's football event that will kickoff later today!#LabanFilipinas…

Posted by Philippine Women's National Football Team on Monday, November 25, 2019

Goalkeepers

  • Inna Palacios (Green Archers United)
  • Kimberly PariΓ±a (Far Eastern University)

Defenders

  • Claire Lim (University of California – Santa Cruz)
  • Hali Long (Green Archers United)
  • Alesa Dolino (Outkast FC)
  • Patrice Impelido (Stallion-Hiraya FC)
  • Mea Bernal (Outkast FC)
  • Chelo Marie Hodges (Green Archers United)
  • Tara Shelton (De LaSalle University)
  • Cathrine Graversen (B.93 Pigefodbod [Denmark])

Midfielders

  • Camille Rodriguez (Stallion-Hiraya FC)
  • Sara CastaΓ±eda (De La Salle University)
  • Charisa Lemoran (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Hazel Lustan (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Eloiza Fagsao (University of the Philippines)

Forwards

  • Quinley Quezada (University of California – Riverside)
  • Alisha Del Campo (De La Salle University)
  • Shela Mae Cadag (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Sarina Bolden (Sandvikens IF [Sweden])
  • Eva Madarang (Doncaster Rovers Belles)

After the opener against Myanmar on November 26, the Philippine Women’s Team will next face Malaysia on November 29, also in BiΓ±an Football Stadium.

Photo credit: Philippine Women’s National Football Team Facebook page

LaLiga-collage-MD13-1920

LaLiga 2019/20: Primed to be an epic one

After 13 match days in the 2019/20 season, five clubs – FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Sevilla FC and Real Sociedad – see themselves neck and neck in a fierce battle for supremacy in a campaign that could turn out to be the most memorable ‘battle royale’ ever in the recent history of the Spanish top-flight: LaLiga.

LaLiga has been instrumental to this author when he was still starting to learn about the beautiful game in his early teens, in a place where the most followed spectator sport is not football. With the glory years of Real Madrid shortly before the advent of the β€˜Galactico Era’ and the awe of β€˜El Clasico’ rivalry with a soon to re-emerge FC Barcelona towards its β€˜La Sexta’ season, this writer has been caught by the spectacle and magic of LaLiga, not to mention the memorable campaigns of Valencia and Deportivo La CoruΓ±a when the dominance of the big two have been momentarily broken.

Fast forward to now, after being busy with the recently concluded Philippine domestic season and the international break that featured the Azkals’ qualifiers, it came as a surprise upon checking LaLiga’s standings the cut-throat situation in how the competition is panning out, as only six points (equivalent to only two wins) separate the league leaders, FC Barcelona, from 10th place, CA Osasuna, with four teams from sixth to ninth all sharing the same number of points, with 20, separated narrowly only by goal differences.

LaLiga standings after MD13

Another interesting detail to take note is Villarreal CF, the Yellow Submarine, despite showing potency up front with an impressive +7 goal difference, unbelievably find themselves languishing at 11th, proving that scoring goals alone does not define how good a squad is.

Such is how precariously poised the battles for the league title and European qualifications (Champions League and Europa League) are that a win could serve as a big boost while each loss could hand a devastating blow to each team’s LaLiga and European aspirations that all participants are forced to treat each match as season-defining. Never has such an almost equal level of competition at this point of the season been experienced ever and this year could turn out be one for the books.

As a matter of fact, according to LaLiga’s records, the meagre five points that currently separate the league leaders and the eighth place team, Granada CF, which is the highest non-European qualifying spot has been the lowest ever since the introduction of 3-points for a win in 1995.

It’s not just the usual powerhouses now

Another element that made this season more compelling and thrilling to watch and follow is the emergence of clubs which are mounting serious challenges to the current giants’ grip of supremacy in Spain.

It’s not just Real Madrid and Barcelona who have the capability to get a grip with the LaLiga trophy as perennial European silverware contenders, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, are hot on their heels and could very much wrestle for the honor of being the best in the land.

Also, clubs like Real Sociedad, Getafe, and Granada are showing great performances and promise with their squad relying mainly either on youth, homegrown talent and/or scouting. There’s also the re-emergence of traditionally strong clubs such as Athletic Club Bilbao, while RCA Mallorca and Levante UD were able to pull off upsets by beating footballing giants such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.

In short, this 2019/20 LaLiga could turn out to be an all-out, free-for-all melee in jostling for maximum three-points each match day with a chance that the league winners could be a welcome, yet unexpected, surprise package.

Hang tight, don’t blink!

As previously mentioned, never did this situation ever happened before in all the years that this author has followed LaLiga, where teams are piled up on each other in what could turn out to be a furious race to the top, separated only by the minutest of margins.

Now, as LaLiga returns to action this weekend with each match having the ability to decide a season-long campaign as either a success or a failure, 2019/20 could be poised to be an instant classic and be immediately bumped up as one of the biggest highlights in the history of Spanish pro football.

Hang tight, don’t blink. This might be the most volatile LaLiga standings and the fiercest battle for the silverware football fans will see for years!

Photo credit: LaLiga

Shanden-Vergara-Snow-College

Filipino footballer Shanden Vergara looks back on first US season with Snow College

Filipino footballer Shanden Vergara has just concluded his first season with Snow College Badgers after ending the campaign in the conference finals of the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA). Despite not reaching the nationals, the San Carlos City native shared his overall experience across the Pacific and how it molded him as a player.

Speaking to the 5th Minute of Added Time via online chat, the former DLSU Green Archer imparted the overall initial challenges he faced when he transitioned to his then new environment.

“I find my first season here at Snow a challenging and an enjoyable one. Back in a few months, I had to readjust again being far away from my family, playing football in a different country, new environment, new school, and a different climate. In my first week, it was difficult for me to adjust.”

From an ordinary fan perspective, the UAAP Season 81 Rookie of the Year’s decision to move overseas came as a surprise after a stellar showing in just his debut season where he helped the Archers reach the final. But Shanden continued to push the envelope by going further out of what could have been his new comfort zone to test his mettle in the United States after getting a scholarship with Snow College and eventually getting settled into his life as a student-athlete with the Badgers.

“As time went by, I started to adjust and because of my faith in God, I never felt that I was alone despite the difficulties,” said the now Filipino Badger.

Eventually, Shanden made a mark for his team through his efforts – on top of his already undeniable talent in the sport. Such was his contributions that he was even recognized by the NJCAA’s regional governing body as one of its standout players.

Although the Badgers came up short in their plans to survive out of Region 18 and compete in the nationals of the NJCAA after being defeated 1-3 by Salt Lake City Community College, Shanden has a lot to thank for in his first season with Snow College.

“Playing here at Snow has helped me a lot in becoming better as a player and especially as an individual. Being surrounded by people from different backgrounds has shaped me to the person I am today which I’ve learned so many things from them on how they treat football as part of their life and especially during training that they always push me to work even harder and help others who are struggling.

Shanden Vergara (2nd from right)

“Our season went up and down and yet we fought hard and played for each other until the very end but we fell short. Our main goal was to qualify for the nationals but we couldn’t make it happen. I’m very grateful to be here at Snow because of the challenges that I’ve encountered on how I overcame them and especially to my coach Nuno (Gourgel), who gave me the opportunity to play here and brought my own full potential,” Shanden further shared.

With the season already wrapped up, Snow College now set its sights on their next campaign in spring 2020 which will be a set of friendlies in preparation for the actual NJCAA campaign which begins in fall.

Finally, given that Shanden’s junior college tenure is all in preparation for university, the Filipino international is still mum on which will be his next destination when inquired on this aspect, given that it is still too early to tell considering the US academic calendar and sporting system.

“In this matter, I can’t say which school I am going to transfer because I am waiting which school gives the best offer for me. We’ll see what happens.”

Photo credit: Shanden Vergara Twitter account

pff-election-landscape

[OPINION] PFF Elections 2019: A plea

The Philippine Azkals have just concluded their final match for 2019 in Dubai, giving a short lull for in football proceedings before all attention by most Filipino football fans and stakeholders get channeled to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be held in Manila.

And as the football events kick off in the SEA Games, with fans busy in showing their support to the U-22 men and women’s teams in their respective campaigns, a much more important event that would significantly influence the course of Philippine football in the next few years is about to happen: The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Congress where the elections for the new administration will happen.

In the coming November 29 elections, two parties will be vying for the presidential spot. One incumbent seeking a fourth term, while the other – a tenured official in the sport – is running for the highest office for the first time.

Both have plans, good ones (on paper, at least), but here’s the thing: As with any elections, only one candidate can win. And the fates of both will lie on the most crucial players come the main event – the FA representatives.

As of the moment, there are 36 associations (33 regional FA’s and 3 pro clubs) that make up the PFF. Each of these has a leader or president that will serve as the representative in the congress and has the power to vote come elections on who will be the next head of the federation.

So here are my statement and plea to the regional FA leaders who have the ability to choose the next head of Philippine football: VOTE WISELY! This will be the occasion that each of you wields an immense power – YOUR VOTE. Study the platforms of the two hopefuls carefully, including their respective track records. In your hands lie the immediate future of football.

Please, don’t take it for granted. It’s on you.

azkals-v-syria_strauss

WCQ2022: Shaky first half by Azkals gave Syria 1-0 edge

A first half that lacked composure from the Philippine Azkals served to be their own undoing as Syria’s lone goal proved decisive in their joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifying match held last November 19, 2019 at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Azkals assistant coach Scott Cooper fielded a side with a few changes from the ones that started in the match against Maldives as Martin Steuble goes back in the defensive end while Angel Guirado and Curt Dizon also made the Starting XI.

The changes prompted Iain Ramsay to deputize as the left-back in place of Daisuke Sato, who is in the substitute’s bench after receiving a knock in the previous match in Male.

In the early moments of the match, Philippines’ defender Alvaro Silva was quickly cautioned with a yellow card after a challenge on Al-Soma as Syria showed signs of fluidity in their passing play.

A sixth minute speculative effort from a counterattack came for the Azkals with forward Angel Guirado firing from a tight angle forcing Syrian keeper Ibrahim Alma to a diving save and awarding the Southeast Asians a corner kick that was easily dealt with.

Just as the Filipinos were able to get their bearings into the match, Cardiff City FC keeper Neil Etheridge was forced to produce a reflex save to deny Osama Omari from a slightly angled position.

In the 20th minute Patrick Reichelt may have thought that he got to the ball in a very promising position to unleash a shot and break the ice for the Azkals, but the linesman promptly flagged for offside.

But Syria are keen to get a better grip of their lead in the qualifying group as they finally broke the deadlock off a cleverly executed set-piece that unleashed Osama Omari who then squared perfectly to an on-rushing Ward Alslamh to tap-in the goal in the 23rd minute.

In the 32nd minute, Kamel Hmeisheh almost produced something special from range for Syria only narrowly going over the bar as Syria continued with their ascendancy in terms of the proceedings as the first half progressed.

For the few moments that followed, the Philippines seemed to have been chasing shadows as the Qasioun Eagles further improved with their crisp passing plays.

The remaining minutes have been tense and nervy for the Azkals, defending for the most part, as Syria were able to maraud into the box almost at will.

In the 41st minute Omari once again proved to be one of the main thorns for the Philippines after unleashing a venomous strike from distance that Etheridge was able to parry away.

In the 43rd minute Syria’s towering striker Omar Al Somah almost made it two-nil, but his effort inside the box just sailed wide of the far post as the Filipinos’ problems continue to pile up near the half-time break.

A rare attacking breakthrough arrived in the second minute of added time as Guirado was fouled for a set-piece opportunity, then another corner-kick, but both plays have been snuffed out by the Syrians as halftime arrived, more to the relief of the Azkals, with the more superior middle-easterners ahead by only a goal.

After the restart, at the 49th minute, Neil Etheridge collided with Al-Soma in an offside play that put a momentary stoppage in the proceedings but the Filipino goalkeeper, who have been on the receiving end of that particular collision, turned out to be okay as play resumed.

In the 51st minute Stephan Schrock produced a powerful low drive from 30-yards out but Syria’s Alma was able to gather the attempt.

A well crafted play in the 54th minute for the Azkals had Curt Dizon laying off a well-weighted pass towards Guirado who had only Alma to beat but his effort rolled just agonizingly wide of the right post.

Two minutes later, Syria were awarded a freekick in a very dangerous position for the Azkals but Al-Soma’s attempt for the spectacular just narrowly missed the target.

Mark Hartmann’s introduction proved to be the first change for the Philippines as he replaced Angel Guirado in the 58th minute of the match in a bid to provide a different dimension in attack.

As the hour mark came, the Philippines had already produced a much improved showing compared to the whole of the first half.

In the 63rd minute, a last gasp intervention by the Filipino back-line denied Syria a chance for an attempt inside the box and avoid a sure dangerous situation.

Seven minutes into the hour mark, Mike Ott replaced Curt Dizon to provide fresher legs in attack, just as the Filipinos are finally getting some better spells in possession and attacking plays.

In the 70th minute, Syria injected their first change with highly rated Omar Kharbin replacing Omari.

A minute later, Azkals captain Stephan SchrΓΆck tried to pull off a curled effort but Alma was able to deal with the attempt easily as another heroic move from the Syrian keeper immediately followed, denying Mark Hartmann’s well-struck effort inside the box off a service from Mike Ott.

Moments before heading into the 80th minute, the Azkals were able to come up with some promising forays into the Syrians’ half as the search for an equalizer ensued.

Five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Neil Etheridge pulled off another set of heroics outside his box to deny Syria a chance to increase their lead.

Even though the Azkals kept pushing forth for a leveller, it was actually Syria who got the gilt-edged chance as Almawas’ curler just missed its intended target with Etheridge seemingly caught in a not so good position to defend.

Despite a tense four minutes of added time, the middle-easterners held on to their slim advantage with Alma producing another last minute denial this time of Mike Ott.

An end-to-end action ensued with Al-Soma missing a sitter to erase all doubts but the Syrians eventually got the win, just barely to maintain their place in the driver’s seat of Group A with a perfect 15 points out of five matches.

The Azkals meanwhile remain at third in the standings with 7 points behind China (who now have a game in hand) just on goal difference.

A lengthy break in qualifying fixtures immediately follows for the Philippines’ senior side as the next match is set late in the first quarter of next year, specifically in March 26, 2020 with Guam visiting for the return leg.

Photo credit: Asian Football Confedration

PFFu15-NCRFA-v-LagunaFA

PFF U15: Group A concludes with NCR FA, NOFA heading to final round

A superb 2-5 win by National Capital Region FA (NCR FA) and a 3-0 victory via default in favor of Negros Occidental FA (NOFA) see both teams finish in the top two respectively in Group A of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Under-15 Boys National Championship which concluded last November 19 in the PFF Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

In the early morning opener, a first half hat-trick by Dominic Tom (18′,37, 44′) edged out a promising resistance presented by Laguna FA with goals from Vincent Aaron Saludo (24′) and Louis Angelo Junio (29′) as the capital region’s representatives were able to nurse a slim 2-3 advantage heading into the break.

However, Laguna had no reply to an Andrei Gonzales 55th minute conversion which was then followed by a 69th minute Rodrigo MariΓ±as cushion in the second half, as NCR FA marched on to the final round of the competition in fine form.

Laguna FA and NCR FA post-match group photo

For the subsequent fixture of the day, NOFA had their undefeated run in Group A confirmed without kicking a ball as they were awarded a 3-0 win via default when Cordillera RFA were a no show.

According to officials, via info gathered, Cordillera already left for Baguio last Saturday (November 16) presumably without any intent of playing their final match. It is yet being mulled on the sanction details that will be filed against the regional FA.

With the result, NOFA joins NCR FA to the final round with both teams getting an identical haul of 10-points (NCR edging the Western Visayans only through goal difference) in the standings.

However, with Group B still yet to commence after games were suspended indefinitely due to the recent earthquakes in Mindanao, determining who will complete the cast for the final round and the schedule on when the semifinals will begin are still to be determined.

Photo credit: PFF U15 Boys National Championship Facebook page

AboitizLand-Football-Cup-2019-pk

OLAC wins 21st AboitizLand Football Cup Boys U-19 on penalties

Via AboitizLand Football Cup

Our Lady of Assumption College (OLAC) scraped past Malayan Team B after getting a slim 2-1 penalty shootout result in an odd final that ended 1-1 after regulation last November 16, 2019 at the Aboitiz Pitch in The Outlets at Lipa, Batangas.

Champions: OLAC

OLAC’s lads were bound to already seize the cup, enjoying a 1-0 lead just a few seconds before the final whistle, when a Malayan Team B player fell injured near the OLAC box.

A Malayan player tried to kick the ball out of play, but an odd deflection on the pitch sent it high in the opposite direction. The deceiving trajectory of the ball ended up bizarrely beating the OLAC goalkeeper and into the back of the net for an unlikely equalizer and an interestingly surprising resolution that required penalties.

An epic, though unexpected, comeback wasn’t meant to be though for Malayan as OLAC emerged victorious, and deservingly so, after the shootout ended 2-1.

The tournament began with the participating teams being divided into two groups, with the top four from each group advancing into the quarterfinals.

Malayan Colleges stood out in the elimination round with Malayan Team B topping Group A with three wins and two draws. Meanwhile, Malayan Team A won three games and lost only one to secure second place standing in Group B, second only to eventual winners OLAC Football Team on goal difference. 

Runners-up: Malayan B

Faith Colleges, Boracay Beach Boys FC and Paha Youth FC all qualified from Group A after winning two games each. In Group B, aside from OLAC Football Team and Malayan Team B, Tanauan FC and De La Salle Lipa also made it into the quarters. 

In the quarterfinals, OLAC Football Team and Malayan Colleges Team B both dominated with 4-0 victories against Paha Youth FC and Boracay Beach Boys FC respectively while De La Salle Lipa took out Malayan Team A with a narrow 1-0 victory. Tanauan FC took the final slot in the semis by defeating Faith Colleges, 2-0.

In the semi-finals, Malayan Team B quickly dispatched De La Salle Lipa and booked a seat in the final match off a 2-0 win while OLAC had to fight harder, as they were forced to go to a penalty shoot-out against Tanauan FC after a goalless draw. OLAC eventually made it to the final match with a 4-3 win on penalties setting up the aforementioned showdown that ended up, interestingly, in an unexpectedly nail-biting fashion.

Boys Under 19 Top 4:

  • Champion: Our Lady of Assumption College (OLAC) Football Team
  • 1st Runner-up: Malayan Colleges Team B
  • 2nd Runner-up: Tanauan FC
  • 3rd Runner-up: De La Salle Lipa
  • Category MVP: Miguel Arias (Malayan Colleges B #9)
  • Finals MVP: Michael Neri (OLAC Football Team #15)

The next festival day will be held on November 23, 2019 and will feature the Boys Under 13 category (born 2006 or after). 

The AboitizLand Football Cup will be held Saturdays and Sundays until mid-December. For more information about registration details and the full schedule, visit the Aboitiz Football Cup’s official Facebook page.