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Azkals rout foe, forge SEA Peace Cup Final



Rain flooded the Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch with water, while a dominant Azkals side flooded the Chinese Taipei net with goals. The Philippine Azkals trampled Chinese Taipei 5-1 on a waterlogged field this Wednesday, as UFL top gun Mark Hartmann fired in a brace after a lengthy second-half rain delay. The Azkals march on to the 2014 Peace Cup Final against regional rivals Myanmar, who dispatched Challenge Cup champions Palestine, 4-1, in similarly merciless fashion.

After toying with an adventurous 3-5-2 formation in the Azkals’ friendly against Global FC, Philippines Head Coach Thomas Dooley opted for a standard 4-4-2 formation to start the contest against Chinese Taipei. The Azkals’ boss showed his commitment to youth development by starting a trio of 19-year olds in defence. The Global FC pair of centerback Amani Aguinaldo and fullback Daisuke Sato, along with Kaya FC fullback Kenshiro Daniels, joined veteran Azkals captain Rob Gier in the Philippines’ back four. With the Stephen Shrock option off the table due to lingering differences with Dooley, the Philippines relied on combative stalwart Jason de Jong and burgeoning midfield general Manny Ott to man the centre of the pitch. The fleet-footed Misagh Bahadoran and attack-minded Paul Mulders rounded out the Azkals midfield. Up top, the Younghusband brothers looked to be the team’s offensive focal point. The safe hands of Roland Mueller started between the posts for the Philippines.

The inexperienced backline looked nervy in the opening minutes of the match, as Chinese Taipei pressed the youthful Azkals high up the pitch. Aguinaldo, apparently out of sync with the fullbacks and midfielders, delivered two shaky clearances straight to the opposition’s offense. The Philippines survived the resulting Chinese Taipei opportunities, shrugged off its nerves, and proceeded to authoritatively control the length of the field. The first 25 minutes were all Azkals, all over the pitch, as the entire team doggedly attacked the Chinese Taipei defence, while relentlessly recycling possession. Aside from the Azkals’ initial miscues, Chinese Taipei barely got a touch in the first quarter of the match. The Azkals possession was rewarded with a goal in the 25th minute, as quick-thinking Rob Gier’s stooping header deftly guided a corner kick past the marooned Chinese Taipei keeper. The goal woke the lethargic Chinese Taipei side, as they responded promptly by testing Mueller with a stinging shot from distance. A reinvigorated Chinese Taipei loosened slightly the Philippines’ stranglehold on the game, but the night was to belong solely to the Azkals. James Younghusband capped off a beautiful passing move with a simple tap in to give the Philippines its second strike of the match, and a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

A pair of Chinese Taipei substitutions after the break livened up proceedings further. The undaunted visitors scared the Azkals with a flurry of chances in the first 5 minutes of the second half. The Azkals responded with a header flashed just wide of the post, as the game’s tempo suddenly shifted into high gear. At the 57 minute mark, the ominous crackle of thunder overhead necessitated a delay in the proceedings, and the two teams trudged into the lockers for what would turn out to be an hour-long interruption. What should have been a brief lightning delay was compounded by the flooding of the artificial turf at Rizal Memorial Stadium. The weakening of the rain and effectiveness of RMS’ new drainage system meant the field was close to playing condition after about an hour. During that intermission, Phil Younghusband helped speed his team’s return to action by playfully assisting the ground staff in sweeping away the stubborn pools of water left on the pitch.

He would wind up sweeping away the last stubborn remnants of Chinese Taipei resistance as well. 8 minutes after the game’s second restart, Phil Younghusband latched onto a through ball down the left channel, and burst past two step-slow Chinese Taipei defenders. His left-footed diagonal into the penalty box was met with panic by Chen Yi Wei, who awkwardly slid in P. Younghusband’s cross into the Chinese Taipei goal, earning the Philippines a 3-0 lead. The Philippines’ third goal also turned out to be one of Phil Younghusband’s final contributions in the match, as in the 72nd minute, Dooley rotated out most of his core players. Gier and the Younghusband brothers left the field with the Azkals faithful’s appreciative applause in the background. The introduction of UFL leading scorer Mark Hartmann and the versatile Patrick Reichelt turned out to be additional bad news for the beleaguered Chinese Taipei team. Within 2 minutes of action, Mark Hartmann knocked in the Philippines’ 4th goal. Reichelt broke down the Chinese Taipei left flank with clever movement, before delivering an inch-perfect ball to the lurking Hartmann. Chinese Taipei salvaged some pride in the 79th minute with a consolation goal by Yen Ho-Shen, after Patrick Deyto, who came in for Mueller after the lightning delay restart, miscued a clearance straight to the Chinese. Yen Ho-Shen’s meekly-hit drive somehow squeaked by the sprawled Deyto, who will be ruing the missed opportunity to notch a clean sheet for the Philippines. Hartmann made certain that Filipino fans would go home on a high note though, as he scored his second with only a minute left in regulation.

In the earlier match, Myanmar and their talismanic number 10 overwhelmed a Palestinian team cobbled together at the last minute. Azkals fans hoping to see the side that nipped the Philippines in the Challenge Cup final were sorely disappointed, as a makeshift Palestinian side crumbled under unyielding Burmese pressure. The attacking trio of Kyaw Zayar Win, Tin Win Aung and Southeast Asian superstar Kyaw Ko Ko ran riot in the Burmese’ 4-1 demolition of Palestine. Kyaw Zayar Win scored a double for “The White Angels”, but it was Kyaw Ko Ko who most impressed on the pitch. The Yangon United forward, dubbed the “Burmese Messi”, orchestrated the blowout victory with his silky skills. His highlight reel play came in the 77th minute, when he engineered Myanmar’s fourth goal with an audacious flick overhead to beat two encroaching defenders. Kyaw Ko Ko dribbled past not one, but two more shell-shocked Palestinian defenders, before squaring the ball to Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit for the Burmese’ final tally.

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Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest



Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric



Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates



Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting



Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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