After an uncharacteristic first match against Singapore in the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup that saw him on the fringes of the action, Philippine Azkals forward Bienvenido Maranon knew that he simply had to work harder in training to get his groove back.
What happened next became a night to remember as the 35-year-old and his comrades bounced back in stunning fashion with a 7-0 victory over Timor Leste, the Philippines’ biggest ever victory in the group stage of the Suzuki Cup, to bring their campaign back on track.
“I feel so happy. For me, it’s a dream come true even this goal no,” said Maranon after he scored his maiden goal with the Azkals at the 45+1 minute of that match. “It’s the first of I hope so many and you know the first one is always difficult.
“I was working very hard. I was training very hard. I think the reward came in this game.
“Also, you know this is a different position for me. It’s a different kind of game that we played yesterday. I feel so happy. I just tried to do my best. I don’t see anything about the goals. I don’t care about the goals. I just want to get the win for the team but in this case, if I can score the first of my goals here in Azkals so I’m very, very happy,” he continued.
During the match versus Singapore, Maranon played as the lone striker upfront.
It was different to him playing for Ceres-Negros and United City, where he plays out wide at the left flank.
With him up top alone, the Filipinos struggled to threaten the home side’s goal and it took the emergence of Angel Guirado for the Philippines to finally have some teeth in the attack.
“Compared in the last game, it’s to play behind the striker. Against Singapore, it was very tight also it was the first game after a very long time. It was the first game together and you know, it’s always difficult,” said the four-time Philippines Football League champion.
“Like the first goal I scored with the Azkals, the beginning is always difficult… In the second game, we saw a different team, different Azkals inside the pitch. We controlled the ball more. We created more chances from the back and that is really good.”
Come the Timor Leste match, Maranon was visibly more active in trying to attack different spaces. With Guirado as a starter, the 2020 PFL Golden Boot awardee was able to elude defenders and find the chance needed to break his duck.
“In my case, I feel more comfortable playing with one striker in front because when I play alone, it’s like all the defense comes to me so I cannot move from there. Now with one striker there like Angel Guirado yesterday, I feel more free to move, more free to create chances. This is my position and I hope we can keep it,” he attested.
Despite being the top scorer in the history of the AFC Cup, Maranon does not feel an added weight on his shoulders to replicate his form with the Azkals. For him, it is always about preparing in the best way and everything starts from there.
“I will try to do my best. I don’t look that I have to do something special or to score these kinds of goals. I just train hard every time I come here. I try to do my best and with this, it’s enough. I know that I will have chances, I will score goals but I don’t look at it. I just enjoy,” said the former Cadiz player.
“I just train hard because when you train hard and then in the game you can see that one and the goals will come, the chances will come so my target when I come with Azkals is to train hard every single day in the training.”
While the 7-0 win over Timor Leste is a groundbreaking result, it needs to be followed up with another big win for the Philippines to book a semi-finals spot in this campaign. Thailand is always a difficult country to come up against in this tournament but Maranon and the rest of the Azkals relish the task at hand.
“Yeah, I feel very good and the team I think feels very goods especially after the win yesterday. It’s not easy to score six goals against any team in one half and we scored one more and it’s not easy to win 7-0 in any kind of game. We are lucky that we won yesterday. The confidence of the team is high. Now, we will face Thailand, which will be very different from the first game.”
Just like Singapore, Thailand is yet to drop points in the competition. However, it has also yet to concede a goal.
The Philippines is yet to win against Thailand in the Suzuki Cup but there is always a first time for everything and hopefully, it will come tomorrow evening.
“I compare Thailand with Singapore and practically three, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, are practically the same.
“I think it will be a very good challenge for us. I think we are now overconfident and maybe we can beat them because I know now we are playing really, really good and I know in this game we will create many chances. We need to take care about scoring goals because I think it is the time to win,” concluded Maranon.