In what was almost a disastrous result, the Philippine Men’s National Football Team weathered the storm to seal a 3-2 victory over Timor Leste, Saturday evening at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The result raises the Azkals’ tally in Group B to 6 points. It also allows them to stay in the hunt for a semi-finals ticket in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
“It’s very important, of course, to have a change to go through to the semi-finals in this cup. But to do so, I think we have to improve. Second half was not good enough to our standards. I know that we can do much, much better than we did in the second half. But anyhow, we won and that was the most important thing,” said Philippines mentor Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The Azkals bucked a slow start to the contest. Philippines goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard – who started instead of Cardiff City stopper Neil Etheridge – had to deny Timor Leste defender Nelson Viegas with a fine save to keep the scores level.
The Filipinos then gradually grew into the game and soon broke the deadlock. Stephen Schrock set up skipper Phil Younghusband, who shot past Timor Leste goalie Aderito Fernandes in the 27th minute. It was the Davao Aguilas forward’s 52nd international goal in his 101st appearance for the team.
With the floodgates already open, the Philippines enjoyed another goal in the first period thanks to Martin Steuble. The Filipino-Swiss defender unleashed a powerful longshot, via a Kevin Ingreso assist, that evaded the Fernandes’ hands in the 33rd minute.
Come the second half, the Azkals were noticeably a step slower than their counterparts and became susceptible to defensive errors. Carli De Murga looked to have sealed the three points for the Filipinos when he headed in Ingreso’s free kick in the 67th minute, but Timor Leste rallied back in impressive fashion.
Timor Leste put the ball into the Azkals net twice in quick succession to deliver peril into the Philippines. Skipper Nataniel Reis, who was denied by the crossbar early in the period, converted a penalty in the 73rd minute after a Paul Mulders foul. Midfielder Joao Pedro dribbled past Falkesgaard two minutes later to score into an open goal. Still, Timor Leste failed to find a late leveler.
Up next for the Philippines is a tough test at home against Group B favorites Thailand. The game will be played on Wednesday, November 21, at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Philippines XI: Falkesgaard (GK), De Murga, P. Younghusband ©, Sato, Ingreso, Schrock, Steuble, Mulders, J. Younghusband, Reichelt, Strauss.
Timor Leste XI: Fernandes (GK), Gusmao, De Oliveira, Reis ©, Gama, J. Freitas, Alves, De Oliveira, P. Freitas, Da Costa, Viegas.