Philippine footballers off to flying start in 2017 SEA Games
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 16, 2017 04:04 PM
(Photo courtesy of The Official 2017 Southeast Asian Games website: kualalumpur2017.com)
MATCHES ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 17
(Shah Alam Stadium)
8:45 p.m. – Indonesia vs. Philippines (men’s)
(UM Arena, Petaling Jaya)
4 p.m. – Philippines vs. Vietnam (women’s)
KUALA LUMPUR – The Philippines kicked off its campaign in the 29th Malaysian Southeast Asian Games football tournament with a bang Tuesday night.
Adjusting to the playing conditions in the second half, the National Under-22 squad gained revenge over Cambodia, fashioning a clinical 2-0 victory at the MP Selayang Stadium on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital.
After a scoreless standoff at the half, Reymart Cubon slotted in the ice-breaker from a right corner kick in the 53rd minute before Filipino-Japanese Belgira Kouichi volleyed from a free kick that slipped through the Cambodian defensive wall in the 73rd minute to help the Filipino booters post their first win in Group B.
Not to be outdone, the Malditas, as the national women’s football team is known, stunned host Malaysia, 2-1, at the remote Shah Alam Stadium courtesy of goals from skipper Patrice Impelido and Camille Reyes in each half for their initial triumph in the five-team, single-round series.
“This win is the start of our journey to the semifinals,” said National Under-22 coach Marlon Maro at the post-match press conference. “The players were able to execute according to our plan. We prepared hard for this game.”
Asked about the tentative play in the first 45 minutes, Maro said his wards had to cope with the soft pitch conditions “which was uneven in some spots. But I talked with my boys during the break and we were able to adjust.”
The triumph avenged a 0-1 loss to the Cambodians in the AFC Under-23 Group qualifiers held in the Phnom Penh last month, and more importantly, boosted the Pinoys to a share of first place with Vietnam, which swamped Timor Leste, 4-0, on the same pitch earlier.
The victory was also a fitting gift for team captain Julian Mariano Clarino, who celebrated his 22nd birthday last Tuesday, and gave the Filipinos an inside track to the semis after defending champion Thailand was held to a 1-all stalemate by Indonesia in the same group last Tuesday.
Looking ahead to the game against Indonesia on Thursday, Maro said: “Indonesia has good scorers and wingers but we will be ready for them, especially on the defensive end.”
Equally pleased by the national women’s squad rousing start was rookie head coach Letlet Dimzon, although she said that there were still a lot of things that they had to work on, particularly on offense.
“We had a positive outcome in our first game (but) we had lots of good opportunities in front of the box. Our girls were either hesitant or had too much adrenaline, which resulted in losing ball possession,” Dimzon noted.
“We have to have good recovery because our game (against) Vietnam will be tougher,” she added. “We will have to work on our defensive line and individual marking.”
The Pinay footballers play the Vietnamese at 4 a.m. on Thursday, with a win virtually guaranteeing them of at least a bronze medal, something they have not done since the 1985 Thailand SEA Games.
Both the men’s and women’s sides also snapped their respective losing streaks in the regional competition.
The National Under-23 side also under Maro lost all of their four matches in the 2015 Singapore Games and the Malditas lost twice in the Myanmar edition four years ago when they last saw action in the sports showcase among Southeast Asian countries.
The Philippines did not field a women’s team in the Singapore SEAG.