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Stalemate leaves Azkals on equal footing with Thailand in Suzuki Cup semifinals

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Ninety minutes down, at least 90 minutes more to go.

The Philippines dominated the action for most of the game, but will go to Bangkok disappointed with their 0-0 draw against the highly fancied Thailand team. The regional powerhouse squad was reduced to 10 men in the second half but held on to a stalemate at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Saturday night.

It was not a strange result for the Azkals, who would have to do better than 2012 away from home in order to advance to the finals of the tournament. Defending champions Singapore escaped Manila with the same scoreline before notching a 1-0 win at home.

 The Azkals created many chances throughout the 90 minutes but the opening opportunity fell in favor of the visitors. Amani Aguinaldo wrongfully impeded Kirati Keawsombut to give away a free kick. Fortunately for the youngster, the ensuing free kick from a dangerous area did not bother Patrick Deyto. An early scare was followed by another when Aguinaldo almost gave the Thais a free pass on goal that was just dealt with to prevent any harmful touches by the War Elephants.

 After defending in the opening moments, the Azkals turned up the pressure on the Thais for the majority of the first half. Martin Steuble lashed a shot in the ninth minute only for it to sail over the bar. The home team had a lot of the ball but were kept scoreless by the disciplined defending of the boys in blue. The best chance of the first half came to Phil Younghusband. The forward placed his free kick on target but Kawin Thamsatchanan parried away his shot for an unproductive corner. Thailand then found some time to put themselves ahead but the stubborn Philippine defense kept the game scoreless by halftime.

The second half began well for Thailand. They took control of the proceedings in the early moments of the second half. But just like the first half, the Azkals contested each spell of attack fairly.

Off a Thai corner, Daisuke Sato and Younghusband almost made the visiting squad pay. The left back initiated a neat counter attack with a great through ball to Younghusband who successfully got past the last defender but was unlucky in his entry into the box. Seeing the goalkeeper between him and the goal, the Azkals’ star man lost his balance to the disbelief of the partisan crowd. “I lost my footing,” conceded Younghusband.

That was the game’s best opportunity but Thailand would have also taken a goal with them had Charyl Chappuis been a second earlier for what looked to have been an easy tap in against Deyto.
Things got interesting in the 69th minute when Adisak Kraisorn was shown the red card. The Thai forward unnecessarily committed a foul on Aguinaldo away from play, which keeps him from playing the return leg on Wednesday. Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang revealed after the game that it was indeed costly and led them to play more defensively.

It was apparent that the Azkals had plenty of the ball after Adisak’s dismissal but the Philippines fell flat in the attacking third. Three good chances were created with Steuble involved in all those but none of the three had enough touches to force Kawin to break a sweat.

Thomas Dooley, coach of the Philippines, was pleased with the result but thought that his players deserved to have at least scored in the game. Definitely, both sides would need to do so on Wednesday night in Bangkok for the second leg of the semifinal tie.

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