Vietnam was simply a class above the Philippine Men’s National Football Team.
Against one of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup’s favorites, Patrick Reichelt’s strike was not enough to turn the tide, as the Philippines succumbed to a 1-2 defeat in the first leg of the semifinal stage at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
“Well, I think we played rather well, but if you want to beat a team like Vietnam – they have a very good team, I think we conceded two goals unluckily. We were unlucky (on) both occasions and it was too easy to score for them,” lamented Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Eriksson’s men suffered a rude awakening in the match thanks to the away side’s aggression. Vietnam’s forwards sought to get in behind the Philippine defense and relentlessly pressed the home side’s backline.
While Reichelt had a good sniff at a goal, it was on a rare foray for the Philippines in the final third. The inevitable then happened 12 minutes into the contest. Nguyen Anh Duc took advantage of a defensive lapse from the Filipinos to head the ball past goalie Michael Falkesgaard for the opener.
Thankfully, the Filipinos grew stronger in the game after the setback. While Vietnam’s pace remained a dangerous proposition, the Philippines tightened up defensively and threatened to score.
Salvation came during stoppage time when Reichelt converted skipper Phil Younghusband’s cross to draw level by the break. It was the Philippines’ first time to score in this stage of the competition.
Just like in the first half, though, the Filipinos were brought back to earth early in the second half. Phan Van Duc beat the Philippines’ offside trap and latched onto Nguyen Trong Hoang’s pass to regain the lead for Vietnam in the 48th minute.
The Philippines tried to mount a comeback, but Vietnam repelled everything that was thrown at them. Right at the death, substitute Nguyen Cong Phuong should have sealed the tie for Vietnam when he slalomed past the Philippine defense, but he shot painfully wide.
Ultimately, the Filipinos’ weaknesses in defense gives them a mountain to climb if they want to clinch a maiden appearance in the finals.
The Philippines seeks to defy the odds against Vietnam in the second leg. That match will be played on December 6, 2018, 8:30 PM at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
Philippines XI: Falkesgaard (GK), De Murga, Manu Ott, P. Younghusband (C), Ingreso, Schrock, Steuble, Bedic, Reichelt, Tull, Silva.
Vietnam XI: Lam (GK), Ngoc Hai (C), Anh Hau, Hoang, Duc, Huy, Dung, Quang Hai, Van Duc, Trong, Manh.