U23 Azkals showed promise despite loss to Young Lions

ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 02, 2015 06:20 PM
U23 Azkals showed promise despite loss to Young Lions
Arnel Amita and the U23 Azkals face off against Cambodia next.

SINGAPORE – The Philippines failed to overcome a jittery start but still narrowly lost to host Singapore 0-1 in opening Group A football action in the 28th Singapore Southeast Asian Games at the Jalan Besar Stadium Monday night.  

Not wanting to disappoint their hometown fans, the Young Lions were relentless from the get-go and were finally rewarded in the 44th minute when defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi Othman nodded in the match’s only goal from a free kick on the right flank by teammate Mohammad Faris Ramli.

Egged on by small but noisy Filipino gallery, the Under-23 Nationals settled down in the second half and showed better discipline but just could not crack the sturdy Singaporean defense, absorbing their first loss in the five-team bracket.

“The boys were very tight in the first half. We had ball possession but without purpose,” noted head coach Marlon Maro afterwards at the post-match briefing. “In the Southeast Asian Games we talk about winning a match and tonight we lost three points (for a victory).”

Despite the close shave, Singapore coach Aide Iskander stressed that the three points were more important, adding that “it is never easy to play against a team that defends most of the time, although they (the Filipinos) had fair chances as well.”

Among those who witnessed the match was Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia, who arrived the same evening and went straight to the match after dropping off his belongings at the hotel.

“Medyo bilib ako sa depensa natin, magaling naman yong mga bata,” said Garcia, who promised to watch the PH squad’s second game against Cambodia tomorrow (Tuesday). “It would have been a nice start of our country’s SEA Games campaign had they won.”

Even national team chef de mission Julian Camacho was impressed by the showing of the Nationals “because we showed the hosts that we are not pushovers.”

Camacho said he would give the team a pep talk yesterday during its practice yesterday afternoon.  

With barely 48 hours to prepare, Maro said yesterday that he advised not to lose heart “since we can still look forward to three more matches.”

The coach added that he would be tinkering with his starting eleven, declining to reveal the player changes until shortly before the match tomorrow.

“We also need to tighten our back row and control ball possession in moving forward with purpose,” Maro said of the general strategy against the Cambodian squad that beat them, 2-1, in the AFC Cup Under-23 qualifiers in Bangkok, Thailand last March.


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