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U23 Azkals falter against Cambodia XI



In spite of going into the match with much hope, the Philippine U23 men’s football team could not follow up on a commendable opening game, as they succumbed to a well-oiled Cambodia side, 1-3, at the ongoing action of the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Right at the start of the match, the Khmers immediately pressed on the Filipino defense. At the second minute, Cambodia Captain, Prak Mony Udom, dispossessed Paolo Bugas and slithered past Ian Clarino for a shot, but it was easily collected by Jun Badelic. Clarino stood his ground on the ensuing play and blocked an attempted cross by Keo Sokpheng for a corner. However, Sos Suhana’s corner kick went way off the mark. The home side kept on piling up the attack in the succeeding minutes, while the Philippines had trouble getting the ball in play. The Young Azkals made a run at the ninth minute, but Cambodia did well to deny an attempt from Paolo Salenga off a long ball.

Cambodia finally got a better chance at the 14th minute when Richard Talaroc fouled a rushing Prak just outside the box. The resulting kick did not bother the country’s skipper-for-the-day, Badelic, as the direct shot of Nen Sothearoth sailed over the bar. Afterwards, Ngoy Sirin and Prak had a few more opportunities by continuously attacking a very high away side backline; nonetheless, they could not finish. At the half-hour mark, the tenacious offense of the blue team was finally rewarded with a goal. From an excellent buildup play at the center, Keo connected a through ball to Prak, who then slotted the ball past Clarino and Badelic for the breakthough goal, 1-0.

Despite the goal, the leading squad stayed aggressive and punished the sloppy Philippines side. Keo was having a good day at the pitch delivering crosses and passes to Chhin Chhoeun and Prak, but their shots were either off target or retrieved by Badelic. The crafty playmaker took matters into his own hands, at the 41st minute. After another great work near the box, Tit Dina back heeled a pass to Keo, who took the shot. With Badelic off his line to meet the attempt, Aguisanda and Clarino tried to keep the ball, but Keo was there to guide the ball to the back of the net as the Angkor Warriors doubled their lead. At the extension, the away team tried to take one back before the break. Nathan Alquiros found Ronnie Aguisanda, who ran all the way from the back, but the former FEU captain could not find the net. The halftime concluded with a 2-0 scoreline.

It was a similar story in the first few minutes of the second half, as it was still the blue shirts who tried to score. The Cambodians could have tripled their lead, if not for the timely saves by Badelic. The complexion of the game, however, suddenly changed when the Philippines finally got the ball in their midfield. A buildup at the 53rd minute found Alquiros sending a shot, which was deflected, and, unfortunately, no one was there to take the rebound. At the following minute, however, Fitch Arboleda secured the ball and passed it to winger Uzoka, who then flicked the ball into the six-yard box that Salenga tapped over the hands of Um and into the back of the net to cut the deficit to one, 1-2.

The goal woke both the Filipino crowd in attendance and the team, who managed to push for an equalizer. The succeeding play saw Cambodia concede a free kick after Arboleda was fouled in a dangerous area. Substitute Arnel Amita attempted the shot, but home keeper Um collared the ball. A few minutes after, Talaroc lost the ball allowing the leading side to play at the right flank and regain momentum. Cambodian Captain Prak had enough room to shoot, but was denied by Badelic when he went out to get the ball. At the 66th minute, a goal by the blue side was nullified because Ngoy was adjudged offside. Shortly after that call, Prak sent a free kick that needed to be retaken. Badelic easily collected this cross to keep his squad within striking distance.

The leading ensemble continued from where they started and attacked the Philippine team. Cambodia had a few more opportunities to add on the lead, but lacked finishing. The defense of the red side did all their best to stifle the barrage of passes and crosses into their box. Nine minutes before the end of regulation, Prak showed how long passes should be done. Seeing the wide gap between the opposing defensive and midfield lines, he connected to substitute, Chan Vathanaka, on the right, who stroked the ball low and past Badelic for the nail on the coffin, 3-1. With a minute left, the Nationals tried for goal, but the Camboadian defense held its fort until the final whistle. To make things worse for the Azkals, midfielder Amita will miss their next game because he was given two yellow cards and was sent out after committing dangerous tackles.

Cambodia pocketed three points on their first outing of the 28th SEA Games, while the Philippines failed to follow their impressive showing last match against Singapore and dropped their second match of the meet. The Angkor Warriors takes on Indonesia on June 6, while the Young Azkals meet Myanmar the following day.

*With insights from Alfonso Ancheta

**Screenshot from Sport Singapore’s Youtube Channel


Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.