The Philippines Under-22 team achieves a positive start in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara after getting a slim but important 1-0 result against Green Archers United in Aboitiz Pitch last October 27.
Assembling its most formidable squad yet, The Azkals management released the list in the morning of matchday which showed a good balance of collegiate standouts and professionals both based locally and abroad.
Meanwhile, right before kickoff, Green Archers fielded a capable starting 11 that has been their staple during their impressive league debut to face against a national squad lineup brimming with talent.
As the opening whistle was blown, the Under-22 side were able to enjoy most of the possession in the early proceedings. However, Green Archers produced the closest breakthrough when John Celiz hit the crossbar in only the eighth minute of the match through a counterattack.
The Young Azkals eventually had their first promising chance of the match when Chima Uzoka almost put his side in front only to see his effort go wide of the left post.
Green Archers eventually settled into the match and found their rhythm as well to produce their own spell of ball possession and building some counterattacking plays.
Paolo Bugas saw his freekick for the Archers go over the bar in the 31st minute while Uzoka saw another attempt go agonizingly wide of the far post in the 34th minute as the dynamics of the match went back and forth a bit for both competing teams.
Late in the half, Jarvey Gayoso and Jimuel Ariola had chances for the Philippines and Green Archers respectively through set-pieces, but the opening goal did not arrive as both teams headed into the break in a deadlock.
Five minutes after the restart, the Philippine team eventually got the much needed breakthrough when Chima Uzoka rose highest to meet Jerome Marzan’s corner kick with a header which went past Henri Bandeken’s outstretched arms.
The lead added a momentary boost to Azkals U22 as another headed effort, this time, from Yrick Gallantes almost got in, only to be denied by the right post.
Green Archers had chances to restore parity with an inspired Jimuel Ariola creating chances but debuting goalkeeper and team captain Anthony Pinthus did well with his custodian duties.
A late shuffle by coach Joel Villarino, opting for an all-out attack, came up empty handed as Pinthus pulled off at least two timely saves late in the match to earn the Young Azkals a positive start to their cup campaign.
Jarvey Gayoso had two late attempts that could have doubled the lead of the national team but Bandeken Fong did well to deny the effort as the clash ended in a 1-0 win for the Philippines U22.
Holders ran riot, Invincibles held
Saturday’s opening fixtures saw a bit of contrasting fortunes for the Philippines’ top two clubs with cup holders Kaya starting their title defense with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Air Force.
Jayson Panhay (29′), Connor Tacagni (37′) and Marwin Angeles (69′) each found the back of the net once while Kenshiro Daniels (33′, 62′) scored a brace to put Coach Noel Marcaida’s men to an early comfortable lead in Group B.
Meanwhile, newly-crowned undefeated 2019 league champions Ceres-Negros squandered a two-goal cushion to end up with a 2-2 draw against a resilient Mendiola FC side.
Robert Mendy’s first-half brace (4′, 31′) were eventually cancelled out as Hamed Hadjimehdi (45+1′) and Papuh Corsame (64′) provided the much needed response for both teams to end up sharing the spoils.
Despite the disappointing draw, Ceres still maintains an undefeated 2019 domestic season and are still in the running. Mendiola meanwhile definitely gets a massive boost with the way they unearthed a result against a firm favorite to reach at least a semifinal spot.
From a neutral standpoint, the draw sets up a possibly interesting scenario for the teams involved when it comes to surviving out of Group A and into the cup semis.
Photo credit: The Azkals