Eight years ago, the Philippine Men’s National Football Team left the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta with their dream run shattered at the hands of their Indonesian counterparts.
Tonight was a different story. The Philippines secured a 0-0 draw against Indonesia at the same venue to enter the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals, after failing in the previous edition – and, perhaps, to exorcise some eight-year-old demons.
“It’s not easy to play here, but I think we did okay. We were not brilliant but a draw is okay. Of course, we wanted to win the game, but I think Thailand had too many goals difference ahead of us. Well, we’re in the semi-finals. We haven’t lost one game so we should be happy,” said Azkals mentor Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The result elevates the Azkals’ standing to 8 points and secures 2nd place in Group B, as Thailand sealed top spot with a 3-0 home win over Singapore to win the group with 10 points. Both games were played concurrently, and the Thais’ result ended any doubts over the Filipinos’ progression to the next round.
Stephan Schrock almost gave the Philippines a dream start in the game when Indonesia goalie Andritany Ardhiyasa mishandled a cross, but the Ceres Negros star fluffed the chance and the attempt went begging.
A setback occurred in the 23rd minute when skipper Phil Younghusband was substituted due to a head injury he sustained because of collision Indonesian defender Fachruddin Aryanto. Fellow forward Curt Dizon replaced the Davao Aguilas star.
With the first half goalless, the Filipinos might have broken the deadlock if not for two straight saves from Ardhiyasa. The Indonesian made a point-blank stop to deny Manu Ott, then cleared away Daisuke Sato’s speculative effort.
In front of the 15,436 fans inside the stadium, the Azkals held their own against a team that only fought for pride. It wasn’t pretty, but the Filipinos’ discipline in defense and in midfield allowed them to thwart any real danger from the Indonesians.
The Philippines could have won the game right at the death, but Ardhisaya performed the best save of the night when he denied Ott’s free kick. Nevertheless, the Filipinos’ ticket to the final four was already as good as booked at that moment.
“Probably we have to play better than we did today, but I’m quite sure we (can) do that. Now we have a week until (the) next game and that’s good because those four games came every three, four days. So having one week (rest) is good for us,” closed Eriksson.
The Philippines shall host Vietnam in the first leg of the semi-finals on December 2, 2018 (Sunday) at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. Kickoff time is yet to be announced.
Philippines XI: Falkesgaard (GK), De Murga, Manu. Ott, P. Younghusband (C), Sato, Schrock, Steuble, Bedic, Reichelt, Silva, Strauss.
Indonesia XI: Ardihiyasa (GK), Antara, Zulfiandi, Darmono, Da Costa, Lilipaly, Pora, Aryanto, Vermansah, Pranata (C), Simanjuntak.