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Tiebreaker Times

Azkals claim semifinals ticket after historic manhandling of Indonesia

Hanoi’s My Dinh Stadium hosted another momentous occasion for the Philippines after the Azkals humiliated Indonesia, whom they defeated for the first time in history, 4-0, to book a spot in the semifinals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup as they notched their second win in as many games in the regional tournament.

The Azkals capitalized on Indonesia’s defensive lapses to score an emphatic victory, although the Indonesians almost made the Filipinos pay just inside the second minute if not for Daisuke Sato’s off-the-line clearance. Another concern for the Philippines was Juani Guirado, who pulled his hamstring. Mainstay captain Rob Gier came on to fill the void of the Fil-Spanish defender.

The game’s opening 15 minutes were futile except during the latter part of the period when Misagh Bahadoran took advantage of Firman Utina’s lazy back pass and sprinted towards the Indonesian box. He was brought down wrongly and earned the Philippines a golden chance to go ahead. Phil Younghusband made no mistake by smashing it to the corner with much pace and power to put the Azkals on top.

Indonesia failed to level the score in the first half, with the closest chance coming from Sergio van Dijk who blew a header wide in the 31st minute. Erstwhile, the Philippines had most of the chances but nothing was more threatening than Simone Rota almost emulating the goal he scored three days ago against Laos. A moment of madness almost resulted in a disastrous own goal by Sato but Patrick Deyto was alert to parry his headed clearance from the towering van Dijk.

Only a goal separated the Philippines and Indonesia at halftime with the Indonesians eager to equalize right from the resumption of play. Van Dijk misdirected Zulham’s corner four minutes after the restart. They were left to rue what could have been when Bahadoran threaded a pass to Manuel Ott. The Fil-German then belted a screamer against a helpless Kurnia Meiga and straight to the top corner to double the Azkals’ lead.

Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl sent on Cristian Gonzalez, the man who scored the dream-ending goals against the Philippines back in 2010, with the hope of boosting the Garudas’ attack. Instead, it was the Philippines who scored the next goal. Threatening to score a third goal, the Filipinos were rewarded in the 68th minute when the Indonesians were caught off guard as they were resenting the referee’s decision to award a free kick. Meiga grabbed a ball off what was ruled a back pass which resulted in a free kick. Acknowledging the referee had signalled play to resume, Phil tapped the ball to Martin Steuble who hammered a goal much to the despair of the Indonesians.

It had gone from bad to worse five minutes after when Rizki Pora was given a red card for tripping a rushing Younghusband who had the goal in his sights. The Philippines’ record goalscorer almost made it four if not for Meiga keeping out his solid 35-yard free kick attempt. The fourth goal eventually arrived in the 79th minute when Gier stuck his leg out to successfully rebound his initial attempt that struck the post.

The Indonesians looked for a consolation to no avail as the Philippines saw out the remaining 11 minutes of action en route to a result that will go down in the record books.

The Philippines will play their last game of the group stage on Friday, November 28, against hosts Vietnam whom they have beaten in the two previous editions of the tournament. Avoiding defeat would be huge for the Azkals who would emerge as the top team of Group A. Kickoff time is at 7pm local time (8pm Philippine time).

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