Against a foe they have not beaten in 16 contests in a span of 46 years, the odds were stacked against the Philippine Men’s National Football Team.
However, the Philippines, dug deep and Jovin Bedic’s late leveler allowed the Filipinos to salvage a 1-1 draw against regional giants Thailand at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, to extend the Azkals’ unbeaten run in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
The result brings the Philippines’ tally to 7 points in Group B, level with Thailand but in 2nd place in the standings due to the latter’s superior goal difference.
“First of all, I think we played very well (for the) whole 90 minutes. And then, for me, we were the better team out there. We created more chances so 1-1, it’s okay, but we could have won the game. I’m very happy with the performance of our team. I think they did very, very well,” commented Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Unlike the last time both sides met in this competition, the Filipinos displayed more fight this time around and stood toe-to-toe against their Thai counterparts right from kickoff. Unfortunately, the Azkals weren’t rewarded for their bright start, as the likes of Daisuke Sato and Patrick Reichelt failed to put the ball into the back of the net in the first half.
In fact, all the Azkals needed was to score that one goal to capitalize on their momentum in the match. Another chance went begging after halftime when skipper Phil Younghusband saw his attempt saved valiantly by Thailand goalie Chatchai Bootprom.
But while the Azkals relentlessly ventured forward, the Thais calmly dealt with each threat and sought to launch a counterattack that will stun the home team. They managed in the 56th minute when Suprachai Chaided eluded the Philippines defense to score past goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard.
Despite the setback, the Azkals did not give up and pushed for the goal their efforts deserved. Thankfully it arrived at the 81st minute thanks to Bedic. The 28-year-old, who replaced Stephen Palla in the 78th minute, unleashed a long shot that crept into the Thailand goal to send Panaad into euphoria.
The Philippines looks to build on this result when it faces Indonesia away at the fabled Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on November 25, 8:00 PM.
Philippines XI: Falkesgaard (GK), De Murga, Manu Ott, P. Younghusband (C), Sato, Schrock, Steuble, Palla, Reichelt, Silva, Strauss.
Thailand XI: Bootprom (GK), Kerdkaew (C), Hemviboom, Puangjan, Kraisorn, Roller, Kesarat, A-Nan, Chaidad, Wiriya-Udomsiri, Dechmitr.